Review: The Rule of Three by E. G. Scott

Goodreads

Release date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

From E. G. Scott, the utterly gripping tale of three couples whose game night goes horribly wrong. Full of twists and turns that you’ll never see coming, this is the summer read you won’t be able to put down.

Once a week, three women get together for book club in Kingsland, a private, gated community full of neighbors looking to do their business away from prying eyes. On the same night, their husbands meet up to play poker, where much more is being planned than anyone could guess.

But on this particular night, something goes terribly wrong. When all three men end up dead or hospitalized, and the entire town is being questioned, no one seems to be able to answer the only question that really needs asking: What the hell happened?

This is a riveting story, not just of powerful women or vengeful men, but of secrets, neighbors, blackmail, business gone wrong, and the most intimate of desires spilling into full view.

Review:

One thing that this author duo does really well is they write a gripping premise that pulls you in immediately and they keep you on the edge of your seat as they hop back and forth between points of view and this was no exception. You also have not only one, but two dead bodies and another that may hit survive so there is a ton going on here right off of the bat. The pacing was fast and furious and most of the chapters were short and ended with more questions than answers which is always a tactic I enjoy. As with their prior books you get the perspectives of two cops, Silvestri and Walcott and I always like that police procedural angle. This had plenty of drama between all three couples as well as the residents of their exclusive neighborhood and made for a pretty delicious and wicked summer read. A tad over the top? Absolutely but I like a bit of that in a summer thriller.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Accidental Pinup by Danielle Jackson

Goodreads

Release date: July 19, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Photographer Cassie Harris loves her job—her company Buxom Boudoir makes people look beautiful and feel empowered with her modern twist on classic pinup photography. Cassie’s best friend, Dana, is about to launch her own dangerously dreamy lingerie line and wants Cassie to shoot and direct the career-changing national campaign. But company politics and Dana’s complicated pregnancy interfere, and Cassie finds herself—a proud plus size Black woman—not behind the camera but in front of it.

Though she’s never modeled herself, Cassie’s pretty sure she can handle the sheer underwear and caution tape bralettes. She’s not sure she can work so intimately with the chosen photographer, her long-time competitor in the Chicago photography scene, Reid Montgomery. Their chemistry is undeniable on set, however, and feelings can develop faster than film…

Review:

I really loved the premise of this one with Cassie going from photographer to model and I adored the fact that she was a plus sized Black woman as well. The author did a great job sharing Cassie’s experiences as not only a woman in the industry but as a Black woman and I enjoyed Cassie’s transformation from a sometimes doormat to a strong woman who finally stands up for herself and gets the life she wants and deserves. This one brought some heat too, Reid and Cassie taking lingerie pictures made for some sexy foreplay and their chemistry was hot. Cassie and Reid both have some friends that made up a fun supporting cast too, so overall a well balanced read. I thought this was funny, sexy and a great representation for body positivity.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Ex Between Us by Nicola Marsh

Goodreads

Release date: August 12, 2022

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Thriller

Synopsis:

The best of friends keep the deadliest secrets…

Jo is my best friend. From high school to adulthood, we’ve gone through everything together. Even when I made a foolish mistake and betrayed her in the worst way, she forgave me. She’s godmother to my son and our lives are intertwined. We want the best for each other, always.

I hope she approves of my new boyfriend Noah. How could she not? Noah is kind, attentive and loves me for who I am. But when I introduce them over dinner one evening, Jo doesn’t look happy. She’s always been protective of me and as Noah clutches my hand, I force her reaction to the back of my mind.

But later Jo tells me that someone is threatening her and she fears for her life. And all too soon, the threats land at my door too. At first it’s small things: my precious roses destroyed, my mail sabotaged. But when I receive a note saying, “I want your life,” I’m terrified.

Someone wants to cause me harm. They’re prepared to take everything I love. But are they closer to me than I could have ever imagined?

Review:

I absolutely love a domestic thriller that is dramatic and maybe even a little over the top in a soap opera kind of way and this one delivered on all fronts! There was lots of unreliability, seriously as it flipped back and forth between Jo and Abi’s perspective I had no idea who was telling the truth or lying. Maybe both? Such a mindfuck in the best way. I sped through this really fast because I couldn’t stop reading, give me all the drama and I’m entertained. It was juicy and surprising and while I did figure out one twist only right before it happened it didn’t bother me in the slightest because this was the best popcorn thriller I’ve read in awhile! Definitely would be ideal to read by the pool this summer.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar

Goodreads

Release date: August 2, 2022

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Rose O’Connell is barely surviving. Her relationship with her husband is on the rocks and their son has isn’t fitting in at his new school, the prestigious Woolf Academy. Their tiny flat in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood–the very place Rose grew up as the daughter of an infamous local con artist–can barely contain her family. Rose can’t catch a professional break either, trapped in the same junior bank teller role for years. Life as the only mom in a nametag and uniform at The Woolf’s shiny school gates isn’t easy.

Not so for those in the elite and secretive Circle, a tight-knit group of mothers who rule the school, led by the charismatic and glamorous Amala Kaur. In exchange for supporting The Woolf’s relentless fundraising and public image drives, the women enjoy lucrative business opportunities, special privileges for their children, and the admiration of the entire community.

After the mysterious death of one of The Circle’s members, Rose dares to hope that filling the vacancy could set her family up for success. And when Amala makes the shocking decision to invite Rose into their clique, her fortunes, self-esteem, and status soar. But the deeper Rose gets inside The Circle, the darker the secrets lurking within every perfectly Instagrammable life. Far from being a dream come true, being inside The Circle could prove Rose’s worst nightmare…

Taut, complex, and compulsively readable, Such a Good Mother is a razor-sharp take on modern motherhood and the myth of having it all.

Review:

I am such a sucker for books about despicable rich parents behaving abhorrently so the description was of this sounded right up my alley. I actually enjoy reading about unlikable characters and I don’t think there was a single truly likable character here. That’s not to say the characters weren’t well developed because they were, the author takes an interesting look at mothers who will stoop to low levels for their children and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

My experience reading this book was odd, I was always definitely interested in seeing where things were headed but I did feel it get a little dragged on at times. By the time I finished I could clearly understand the authors intention though and it all made more sense for me. I really had no idea how things would end and I was surprised which is always nice. Overall I mostly enjoyed this dark and dramatic read.

Overall rating: 3.75/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: Bet on It by Jodie Slaughter

Goodreads

Release date: July 12, 2022

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

The first time Aja Owens encounters the man of her dreams, she’s having a panic attack in the frozen foods section of the Piggly Wiggly. The second time, he’s being introduced to her as her favorite bingo buddy’s semi-estranged grandson. From there, all it takes is one game for her to realize that he’s definitely going to be a problem. And if there’s anything she already has a surplus of, it’s problems.

In Walker Abbott’s mind, there are only two worthwhile things in Greenbelt, South Carolina. The peach cobbler at his old favorite diner and his ailing grandmother. Dragging himself back after more than a decade away, he’s counting down the days until Gram heals and he can get back to his real life. Far away from the trauma inside of those city limits. Just when he thinks his plan is solid, enter Aja to shake everything up.

A hastily made bingo-based sex pact is supposed to keep this…thing between them from getting out of hand. Especially when submitting to their feelings means disrupting their carefully balanced lives. But emotions are just like bingo callers—they refuse to be ignored.

Jodie Slaughter’s Bet on It is a heart-stoppingly fun, emotional romance that will have readers falling in love until long after the last page is turned.

Review:

Based on the adorable cover and synopsis I assumed this would be a lighthearted read and it was at times, but it also had some heavier aspects as well that I’ll get into later. I know you can never tell how steamy a romance will be based off those two alone either but this one gets spicy and the chemistry between Aja and Walker was apparent from their first encounter. I believed in their relationship and I even believed in their messy issues, both separately and together. I was definitely rooting for them, HARD even when they were both making mistakes.

Maybe it’s just the romances I’ve been reading lately but there seems to be a new trend of exploring mental health issues in quite a few romances lately and this is one trend I can get behind. This one has both main characters dealing with anxiety disorders and it’s a big part of the story, so a heads up if that may be a trigger for you. If it’s not, I thought the author did a really great job of exploring anxiety and balancing the heavy with the light. The audio was solid and Angel Pean did a great job bringing Aja and Walker to life.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Just Another Love Song by Kerry Winfrey

Goodreads

Release date: August 2, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, Sandy Macintosh thought she would have her happily ever after with her high school sweetheart, Hank Tillman. Sandy wanted to be an artist, Hank was the only boy in town who seemed destined for bigger things, and they both had dreams to escape town together. But when Sandy’s plans fell through, she stayed in their small town in Ohio while Hank went off to Boston to follow his dreams to be a musician, with the promise to stay together. Only that plan fell through, too.

Fifteen years later, Sandy runs a successful greenhouse while helping her parents with their bed and breakfast. Everything is perfect…until Hank rolls back into town, now a famous alt-country singer with a son in tow. She’s happy with the life she’s built by herself, but seeing Hank makes her think about what might have been. There aren’t enough cliché love songs in the world to convince Sandy to give Hank another chance, but when the two of them get thrown together to help organize the town’s annual street fair, she wonders if there could be a new beginning for them or if what they had is just a tired old song of the past.

Review:

If you’re looking for a totally charming and sweet romance to add to your TBR I’ve got you, because this was adorable. It’s a second chance romance with a single dad and a small town setting, gimme all the tropes please! I would say this is a slower burn as far as the romance goes, Sandy and Hank both have to work through some stuff before they’re ready to give each other another chance and I enjoyed their path back to each other wholeheartedly. Secondary to the romance is the small town setting but man was it cute. The residents were quirky, meddling and hilarious and added so much charm to an already charming story. There are also big summer vibes and lots of nostalgia as Sandy spends time thinking about her and Hank’s high school relationship. I loved the towns annual street fair too and the strong sense of community among the members of this little Ohio town. Overall a great summer read if you want light and breezy.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore

Goodreads

Release date: July 5, 2022

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:

Nearly a decade ago, iconic magician Violet Volk performed her greatest trick yet: vanishing mid-act. Though she hasn’t been seen since, her hold on the public hasn’t wavered. While Violet sought out the spotlight, her sister Sasha, ever the responsible one, took over their mother’s salon and built a quiet life for her daughter, Quinn. But Sasha can never seem to escape her sister’s orbit or her memories of their unresolved, tumultuous relationship. Then there’s Cameron Frank, determined to finally get his big break hosting a podcast devoted to all things Violet—though keeping his job hinges on an exclusive interview with Sasha, the last person who wants to talk to him.

As the ten-year anniversary approaches, the podcast picks up steam, and Cameron’s pursuit of Sasha becomes increasingly intrusive. He isn’t the only one wondering what secrets she might be keeping: Quinn, loyal to the aunt she always idolized, is doing her own investigating. Meanwhile, Sasha begins to experience an unsettling series of sleepwalking episodes and coincidences, which all lead back to Violet. Pushed to her emotional limits, Sasha must finally confront the most painful truths about her sister, and herself, even at the risk of losing everything.

Alternating between Sasha’s narration and Cameron’s podcast transcripts, interspersed with documents that offer a tantalizing peek at Violet herself, Acts of Violet is an utterly original, propulsive story of fame, deception, and forgiveness that will make you believe in magic.

Review:

I really enjoyed the fresh concept here, I’ve not read many books about magicians and definitely not many about one that disappears, and NOT as part of their act. So this one had me interested before I even started listening and it kept me engaged initially, but my interest waned as things progressed. Let me back up and speak to the audio version because it was really outstanding. You have a full cast narrating and since there are podcast episodes those were really well done. I think this format on audio really served to reel me in and as my lack of interest in the plot itself continued to decrease, I was so impressed by the narrators performances I felt like I had ti keep listening. In the end I struggled with wanting more, I was left feeling unsatisfied and that’s never the way I want to feel when I finish a book. So overall mixed feeling here, if you decide to try this yourself I highly recommend going the audio route!

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

Goodreads

Release date: August 2, 2022

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Review:

Julia Whelan is one of my very favorite audiobook narrators, she’s SO good and if I see she’s narrating a book I’m on the fence about, I immediately add it to my TBR when her name pops up. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from her as an author and y’all, she blew my mind! This was such a fantastic romance, it had everything that matters to me and more and will surely be in my top reads of the year list come December.

There was something so playful about this one, there is a lot of talk about various romance tropes and there some fun, witty and sarcastic commentary surrounding the genre as a whole. I fell in love with Sewanee and found her to be charming, hilarious and totally genuine. There is one whole section that is epistolary and seeing as that format is one of my absolute favorites I was happy!! I adored every single page of this one although I never do rereads I’ll be listening to this one in the future.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Finalists by David Bell

Goodreads

Release date: July 5, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

The competitive selection process for a prized college scholarship turns deadly in the latest thriller from USA Todaybestselling author David Bell.
On a beautiful spring day, six college students with nothing in common besides a desperate inability to pay for school gather to compete for the prestigious Hyde Fellowship.

Milo–The front-runner.
Natalia–The brain.
James–The rule follower.
Sydney–The athlete.
Duffy–The cowboy.
Emily–The social justice warrior.

The six of them must surrender their devices when they enter Hyde House, an aging Victorian structure that sits in a secluded part of campus.

Once inside, the doors lock behind them. The students are not allowed to leave until they spend eight hours with a college administrator who will do almost anything to keep the school afloat and Nicholas Hyde, the privileged and notoriously irresponsible heir to the Hyde family fortune. If the students leave before time is up, they’ll be immediately disqualified.

But when one of the six finalists drops dead, the other students fear they’re being picked off one by one. With a violent protest raging outside and no way to escape, the survivors viciously turn on each other.

The Finalists is a chilling and profound look at the lengths both students and colleges will go to survive in a resource-starved academic world.

Review:

David Bell has been one of my go to thriller authors for years now so I’m always excited when he has a new book out. He consistently writes books that are compelling, twisty and entertaining. Unfortunately I struggled with this one, it just didn’t feel like the type of solid book I’m used to from the author.

I think my biggest issue here was I didn’t believe in any aspect. I didn’t buy that a group of people locked inside a house would just stay when someone drops freaking dead and it just went on from there. I usually like a locked room style mystery but the reason for them being locked up just didn’t make sense or work for me. It’s hard to describe my frustration without giving you much away, so I’ll stop here and just say I’m still a fan of the author and I’ll be looking forward to his next book but this was a miss for me.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Blame Game by Sandie Jones

Goodreads

Release date: August 16, 2022

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Games can be dangerous. But blame can be deadly.

As a psychologist specializing in domestic abuse, Naomi has found it hard to avoid becoming overly invested in her clients’ lives. But after helping Jacob make the decision to leave his wife, Naomi worries that she’s taken things too far. Then Jacob goes missing, and her files on him vanish. . . .

But as the police start asking questions about Jacob, Naomi’s own dark past emerges. And as the truth comes to light, it seems that it’s not just her clients who are in danger.

Review:

I think I’m finally realizing that maybe this authors books are just not for me. I was a huge fan of her debut and then her last few books have been just ok for me. I’ve been waiting for another amazing read from her and instead I end up being underwhelmed and disappointed. Her books always start out strong for me, I’m usually interested and they are definitely fast and addictive reads. But then everything falls apart in the end and that’s unfortunately what happened again with this one. Things just got ridiculous and a lot of the story didn’t make sense. It was either predictable or just downright absurd and I just couldn’t believe it. Definitely would classify this as a popcorn thriller but if you do decide to try it know that’s it out there, dramatic and incredibly over the top.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.