Review: Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

Goodreads

Release date: August 11, 2020

Publisher: Forever

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn’t plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn’t spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.

From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there’s also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they’re forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it’s possible to have her cupcake and eat it too. 

Review:

Oh my lord was this one CUTE y’all! If you like baking, enemies to lovers and a slow burn romance this one is a must. It made me feel all the warm and fuzzies and was such a perfect escape for me.

Blaire was downright adorable and quirky to boot, and Ronan was basically her polar opposite. From the moment they meet their banter was hilarious and HH is the queen of creating amazing chemistry between her characters so this one had some heat to it. It does take awhile for their to be any sexy scenes, there’s a lot of buildup before they hookup, but I think the wait was definitely worth it. This was heartfelt and sweet, tons of endearing characters and the most charming and adorable love story I’ve read about in awhile. I adored this sweet couple and was definitely bummed when I finished. Highly recommended by me for romance fans!

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

Goodreads

Release date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Blackstone

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

At the age of twelve, Eve Black was the only member of her family to survive an encounter with serial attacker the Nothing Man. Now an adult, she is obsessed with identifying the man who destroyed her life.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle has just started reading The Nothing Man–the true-crime memoir Eve has written about her efforts to track down her family’s killer. As he turns each page, his rage grows. Because Jim’s not just interested in reading about the Nothing Man. He is the Nothing Man.

Jim soon beings to realize how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first …

Review:

After a string of mediocre “thrillers” I had high hopes for this one and it did not disappoint. I’ve had a long fascination with serial killers so the description immediately pulled me in and I also was intrigued by the survivor angle as well. And then the fact that you already know who the killer is made for a tense game of cat and mouse, so basically what I’m saying is I was SOLD!

I’m a big fan of a book within a book, especially if it’s done well and fortunately for me this one was done incredibly well. Jim is reading Eve’s book about his own killings and it unfolded in such a wickedly delicious way, it felt like you were reading a true crime book and a thriller which was pretty damn cool. I don’t wanna discuss the plot anymore but this is a good one y’all, if you like a true page turner that’s clever and fresh don’t miss this!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks

Goodreads

Release date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Daisy and Simon’s marriage isn’t what it seems… 

After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. They’re a happy little family of three.

So what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes—Daisy’s used to it. She knows he’s just letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And their happy little family of three will never be the same again.

In Lies, Lies, Lies, #1 Sunday Times bestselling author Adele Parks explores the darkest corners of a relationship in free fall in a mesmerizing tale of marriage and secrets.

Review:

Much like the last book I read from this author you have to go into this with the right expectations in order to enjoy it, in my opinion. While it starts out in a fairly average way, after you get to about the halfway point things take a sharp turn and you definitely need to be able to suspend some disbelief in order to not drive yourself crazy trying to decide if things are actually possible or not. What begins as a look inside Daisy and Simon’s troubled marriage soon takes a really dark turn and things get intense and super dramatic.

Per the title the lies pile up throughout the book and as it flips back and forth between Daisy and Simon it was hard to tell who was lying, maybe both of them? Tons of unreliability and while I did see a few of the many twists coming, there were so dang many that I didn’t because they were WILD. Wild can be fun though and I mostly had a fun experience with this one, but seriously, one of the reveals was so bizarre I had to laugh. If you’ve read this DM me so I can see if you had the same reaction to it as I did please! I’ll definitely read more from the author, she writes pretty entertaining and original, of over the top books.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea

Goodreads

Release date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Kensington

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

A chilling murder in a prestigious prep school is at the heart of this riveting new novel from acclaimed author Charlie Donlea, featuring forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore and her psychologist partner, Lane Phillips.

Inside the walls of Indiana’s elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont’s students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don’t let your candle go out–unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .

One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house–to kill themselves.

Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn’t ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win–or to survive. . . .

Review:

This is the second in a series and while I’m sure you could jump in here there is quite a bit of backstory, mainly with Rory in the first book so just keep that in mind if you jump in at book two. Also, if you’re a fan of the author you may notice some character crossover here, don’t worry if you haven’t read all of his books, (but you should cause they’re all solid reads) it’s just a nice little treat for longtime readers.

There is a lot going on in this one, a few main plots and then subplots but they all make sense as you keep reading, just know that there’s a few characters to keep track of and it did take me a short time to feel settled into the story. But once I was, I was all in. With so much going on there is no room for boredom which is always appreciated by me and this one was super fast paced and exciting. The flashback chapters to a year ago at Westmont Prep were super atmospheric and had a sinister feel to it as you already know many of the kids will be dead within a year. I loved diving even deeper into Rory and Lane’s characters, they’re both so fascinating and I hope we get more from them. If you enjoy the addition of popular stylistic thrillers like podcasts, etc give this a try it was a tricky mystery and another great read from the author!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

Goodreads

Release date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers. 

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars. 

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

Review:

I feel like this is the romance novel I’ve been waiting for because it had so many of the elements that are a must for me in a perfect romance as well as some additional added things I didn’t even realize I was missing. It was a book centered around the world of TV, which hello isn’t that always fun? But it had a ton of depth as well and was much more than a fluffy book about two actors hooking up. Culture and family played a huge role as well and I felt like I learned quite about about their backgrounds. I wanna add that I switched between the physical and the audio and the narrator was so great and really brought the characters to life, especially with bits and pieces of it being in Spanish, she had a beautiful accent that I could’ve listened to all day.

Jasmine and Ashton’s chemistry started off a little bit on the slow burn side but when things finally heated up it was super steamy. It’s partly because Ashton was a more reserved character and he has his reasons, but Jasmine was a fierce woman who kinda overpowered him to begin with. One of my favorite aspects of their relationship was how open they both were about sex and how positive their interactions were. Consent played a big role and there was a mutual respect between the two that made me swoon. Physical relationship aside they both come from families that value their heritage and culture and I loved learning about both of their families and traditions.

The TV show they’re filming throughout the book is based on a telenovela and I loved the chapters that were scenes from Carmen in Charge. There was a lot of discussion about Latinx representation in the media and besides the juicy look behind the scenes of a TV show, I appreciated that once again, there was another layer of depth to the story. Can you tell by my rambling how much I freaking loved this one?! Seriously a must for romance fans, it’s sexy, funny, sweet, tender and had such great representation across the board.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Goodreads

Release date: July 14, 2020

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.

Superbly tense and oozing with atmosphere, Anna Downs’s debut is the perfect summer suspense, with the modern gothic feel of Ruth Ware and the morally complex family dynamics of Lisa Jewell.

Welcome to paradise…will you ever be able to leave? 

Review:

Beyond that stunning cover that is just ideal for summer I don’t have a ton to say about this one so I’ll keep this fairly brief. Emily loses her job, her agent and her apartment in the same day, she’s not having just a bad day, she’s having the absolute worse day. When Scott swoops in and offers her a job as a housekeeper/sometimes nanny for his family in a gorgeous house in France she thinks all her problems may be solved and worst case scenario she gets to spend the summer somewhere beautiful. Of course nothing is as it seems and secrets abound.

So what went wrong for me? It was predictable and was missing that extra something special that a solid thriller has. Did it hold my attention though? Sure, it was entertaining enough but it went a little off the rails in the end and there was quite a bit of unnecessary fluff for me. Overall I was just very underwhelmed by it and can’t say I can truly recommend it to anyone who’s an avid thriller reader.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Playing Nice by J. P. Delaney

Goodreads

Release date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Ballantine

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Before. . . .

Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son–he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again.

The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents–or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.

They are done playing nice. 

Review:

Talk about a unique premise! I mean it’s pretty out there right? But technically it could happen even it seems outrageous and I’m always looking for something unique, especially in a thriller. I can’t even imagine someone showing up at my front door and claiming one of my kids was switched at birth, insane! And really that’s just the tip of the iceberg here…

This flips back and forth between Pete and his partner Maddie and immediately I struggled a little with how they reacted to Miles claims about their son, Theo. They were all a little too lackadaisical and naive about working together for the children, etc and I remember thinking no way in hell would I be that easygoing. It didn’t really bother me, just made me shake my head and roll my eyes a little because you totally know that’s the wrong approach. Besides that super minor complaint I absolutely loved every second of this one, it was twisty without being silly, it was gripping and surprising and it was paced perfectly. Things get delicious dark and diabolical in the end and it was a mad dash to the finish for me as I couldn’t wait to see how it all played out in the end. I find this authors books to be polarizing, people either love them or hate them and I’m happy this time around I loved it!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: His and Hers by Alice Feeney

Goodreads

Release date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Flatiron

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown―the sleepy countryside village where she grew up―Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. Alternating between Anna’s and Jack’s points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep readers guessing until the very end. 

Review:

I read this one back in March while I was on vacation (remember those? 😏) and since it’s finally being released tomorrow I wanted to make sure it’s on your radar because I’m calling it a must read for thriller fans. It follows Anna and Jack in alternating chapters and the tag line about two sides to every story and someone being a liar is spot on. I swear I’ve never changed my mind so often in a thriller, I couldn’t decide who was being truthful, maybe neither? What if they’re both totally unreliable? And then I would switch back again, and then again it was definitely enough to make my head spin in the best way. I was doubtful of everyone and everything to put it lightly and it ended up being a complex and super twisty read. The whole thing was fast paced, exciting and had those delicious short chapters that keep propelling you forward to read just one more chapter. The end was tense, whip smart and a big surprise to me. If you like messy, unreliable characters, twisty suspense and an addictive read do not miss this one!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Goodreads

Release date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Pamela Dorman

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

In upstate New York, Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin babies. The girls are a handful, but Stephanie doesn’t mind being a stay-at-home mom, taking care of them while Patrick does the nine to five to pay the bills. 

When a woman from Patrick’s past drops in on them unexpectedly, raising questions about his late first wife, Stephanie supports her husband wholeheartedly. She knows the car accident all those many years ago was just that–an accident. But Erica is persistent, and now she’s threatening to go to the police.

Patrick is afraid his job–and his reputation–will be at risk if he doesn’t put an end to Erica’s questioning immediately. And when the police start digging, Stephanie’s trust in her husband begins to falter and Patrick is primed to lose everything he loves. As their marriage crumbles, Stephanie feels herself coming unglued, and soon she isn’t sure what–or who–to believe. Now the most important thing is to protect her girls, but at what cost? 

Review:

This one is tricky for me to review because I didn’t love it but I also definitely didn’t hate it either, it falls somewhere in the middle for me. I’ve been back on a thriller kick lately and I’ve read some really fantastic ones too so in comparison this one falls a bit short for me. I am a firm fan of the author and have been from the beginning though, I just don’t think this is her best book.

So what worked for me? Well I really liked the idea of this new mom, to colicky twins no less, being utterly sleep deprived and half out of her mind. I very clearly remember the days of very little sleep when my own kids were babies very well and can only imagine how much worse it would be if you’re dealing with the kind of domestic drama that Stephanie is. The pacing was good for me, it was steady enough to keep me engaged and there was enough doubt about many of the characters to keep my brain working. What didn’t work for me was the predictability, I think it was fairly easy to see where this one was headed and I think most avid thriller readers will be able to figure it out as well. The ending fell a bit flat for me too and I always expect a strong ending from this author so I was a little disappointed. Overall it wasn’t a bad read, just not quite up to my admittedly high expectations this time but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the authors next book.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Goodreads

Release date: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go. 

Review:

A fake relationship trope, two charming Brits, a little bit of angst, low key sexiness, sharp and witty banter, I mean do I really need to tell you guys more than that?! I kinda feel like I don’t, because if that doesn’t sell you on reading this one I’m all out of ideas, but I will. How about fantastic narration if you’re an audiobook fan? I switched back and forth between audio and print and can confirm both formats are equally engaging. Ok, do you like a little drama? Because this one delivers with family drama, friendship drama and relationship drama. Did I already say humor? Cause this is legit laugh out loud funny. Opposites attract? Luv and Oliver couldn’t be more different and both are endearing in their own sweet and perfect ways. There’s also a cast of quirky supporting characters that keep things interesting. Last thing, do you like feeling all the feelings when you read a rom com? Laughing one minute and getting emotional the next? That’s all I’ve got but trust me when I say this one was an absolute delight and a must for romance fans.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.