Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

All’s fair in love and work. The first standalone romance by New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Beautiful Bastard) is a sexy, compulsively readable romantic comedy that dives headlong into the thrill and doubt of modern love.

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human? Whether these two Hollywood love/hatebirds get the storybook Hollywood ending or just a dramedy of epic proportions, you will get to enjoy Christina Lauren’s heartfelt, raucous, and hilarious romance style at its finest.

I had so much fun reading this book! It was so cute and funny. I was smiling my way throughout almost the whole thing.

Ok, first I need to talk about the part I found really relatable. Evie is 33, single, child-less, does not own her own home, and feels like she’s behind on life. Other than the fact that she has an actual career and not a dead-end job she hates, ahem, it was like she was describing all of my inner life panic. I loved this passage, which is basically all things I have thought at one point or another:

I try to ignore the pressure to be coupled up, but it’s everywhere…There’s my own biological clock, quietly yet persistently ticking away…But of course there’s that niggling voice suggesting I not care about any of it, that maybe I should give in and buy the cats instead. The problem is that I don’t like them. I may be a terrible married person someday, but I know for sure I would be an even worse cat lady.

“Evie?”

“Sorry…I was just trying to figure out whether I could still be a crazy cat lady without the actual animals.”

I loved all the characters in this book. Evie and Carter were great main characters and I really enjoyed all of their friends and family, as well.  I loved that the story was told in alternating 1st Person POV between Evie and Carter. I thought each voice was well done and really felt a connection to both of them. I thought they had great chemistry and I shipped them right away. This wasn’t really the Hate-to-Love story I was expecting. It was more Insta-Love-to-Hate-to-Love and I have to say it worked for me. While I loved Carter – Loved him – he did have several moments of great dickdom, so I was able to hate him when Evie did. But he was also so sweet and charming that I could easily fall back in love with him later.

As anyone who reads many of my reviews knows, I am not a fan of lots of graphic sexual content. I’ve only read one other book by this author duo before and based on that I knew going in that there was going to be some scenes like that. I think because I anticipated it (and was enjoying all the other aspects of the book), I found I didn’t mind it as much. There was actually less than I thought there was going to be.

The one thing (besides the graphic stuff) that kind of bothered me, though, is that I was expecting more behind-the-scenes information on Hollywood and working as an agent. Other than the mention of some actors and making big deals, there wasn’t really a lot of details. I felt like this could have been set in any other type of industry and the story would have come out the same. There is one scandalous work thing with Carter that happens towards the end of the book and I did not understand why it was such a big deal. I felt like it was something that only people in that business would understand and by that point in the book I should’ve been able to understand it, but I didn’t. I think my favorite thing when it came to the work atmosphere, though, is how Evie deals with sexism. It’s a real problem that many of us face and I thought for the most part Evie handled it with strength and class.

Overall, I really loved Hating You / Dating You. I loved the characters and the romance, and the relatability of being 33 and behind on life. Even though there are quite a bit of differences, it reminded me a lot of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, which I adored, and I think if you liked that one, you will like this one as well. I had pretty high expectations going into this and I’m really happy to say that they were met. I can see myself re-reading this a lot in the future. I definitely recommend this one to Romance fans!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I saw several rave reviews on The Weight of Lies and knew that I had to read it. While I did like the story, it ended up falling a little short of my expectations.

I liked the concept of the story. Any time a book or movie centers around a writer, I’m in. I am also a sucker for cold case mysteries. I had many theories about what really happened and kept changing my mind from chapter to chapter. Carpenter really did a good job of keeping me guessing and ultimately surprising me with an unexpected twist. I also really enjoyed the excerpts from the book that was inspired by the mystery Megan is looking into. It paralleled the story really well and I thought it was a really clever narrative device.

While it started off a little slow, it did eventually suck me in once we got further into the story. The island – and some of it’s inhabitants – was pretty creepy and I really felt Megan’s paranoia. I liked Megan, but she frustrated me often. For being as paranoid as she was, you would think she’d be a little smarter. I kept wondering why she wouldn’t password protect her computer. Or how inner monologue would go on and on about how certain people were liars and untrustworthy, but she just kept trusting them anyways.

Overall, I enjoyed The Weight of Lies, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The mystery played out to it’s conclusion well, but I thought the actual ending of the book was pretty anti-climactic. I think I was expecting a more horror-inspired ending and was kind of disappointed it didn’t go that route. Also, while there is some good psychological suspense, I was expecting more. It was still a well-done, enjoyable book, though, and I think fans of the genre will like it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review

Sweet Briar Cottage will be available June 13, 2017.

I’ve had my up and downs with Denise Hunter books, but I have to say I loved this one. It’s my favorite one of hers I’ve read so far.

Noah decided to propose to Josephine after only a few months of dating, despite the warnings of his family and friends. When his marriage ends not too long after it started, it seems the warnings were right. After being apart for over a year Noah finds out the divorce was never finalized and he is, in fact, still married. Since Josephine feels responsible for the mix up she decides to speed things along to fix it by taking the new paperwork up the mountain to Noah’s new ranch. A broken down car and freak spring snowstorm later and they’re stuck together, all alone.

A problem I have with a lot of books by this author is that I find the female lead really unlikable. Thankfully this was not the case with Josephine. While she did make some decisions that frustrated me at times, I feel like her behavior made sense due to her background. I liked that she had reached the point in her life where she was dealing with her past and trying to understand why she did the things she did and become a better person, even though she still lived with a lot of doubts. I thought she was really realistically portrayed. I really liked Noah, as well. Though he had been really hurt by Josephine, he still cared about her and looked out for her when it counted.

I really liked how the romance played out in the story. It wasn’t the typical Contemporary read with lots of “cute” moments (though, of course, there were a couple). It was a more serious love that faced a lot of struggles. We go back and forth between the present and the past. Interspersed with the main story we see Josephine’s childhood and when she and Noah met and started dating. We see Noah’s absolute certainty and Josephine’s tenuous hope at the beginning of their relationship. I liked watching as their hard feelings and fears began to fade while they were stuck together. While I think it’s pretty obvious what broke up their marriage, the details don’t actually come out until late in the story and I kind of wish it would’ve happened a little earlier. I did really like the whole conversation they eventually had surrounding it, though. The one thing I didn’t really like about the romance was that Noah is very strong in his faith and pursued Josephine really hard even though she wasn’t. I’m not a fan of the whole “Evangelism Dating” thing and I don’t think it’s realistic that Noah would rush into marriage with someone who barely seemed to share his faith.

There is also a message of unconditional love woven into the story. Though Josephine had wanted to test Noah to see if he could love her no matter what, it’s really the promise of God’s unconditional love that she needed to accept. I felt that the message was written well into the story and didn’t come across as “preachy.”

Overall, I really enjoyed Sweetbriar Cottage. I liked the characters, the story, the romance, and the message of God’s love. I’ve read a lot of Denise Hunter’s books and this one is definitely my new favorite and I would recommend it to fans of Contemporary Romance and Inspirational Romance.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

To Not To Read Book Tag

I was tagged for this To Not To Read tag by Deanna over at A Novel Glimpse. Thanks Deanna! All the answers have to be books you DNF-ed. I used to never DNF anything (book OR series), but over the last few years I’ve learned how to put down books I don’t think will be worth my time. Feel free to tag yourself if you’d like.

What book would you be willing to finish?

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Tiny Pretty Things. I only read a couple chapters before I gave up and I’ve read many positive reviews on it, so it might have just been my mood when I tried it. And I still love the cover.

A dystopian book that you put down.

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Landry Park. I didn’t make any notes on this on to how far I got or why I stopped, so I don’t quite remember what made me put it down. I think I didn’t like the main character, though, and by the time this came out I was pretty over dystopian.

A book that you just didn’t want to finish at all.

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Passenger. I read a little more than half and I just didn’t care.

A sequel.

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The Queen of Zombie Hearts. While I originally shipped the main romance, by this book I simply could not take the two of them anymore. And I didn’t like the supporting characters.

A book you’ll never again pick up.

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Anatomy of a Player. New Adult is not at all my genre, but I liked the first book in this series so I decided to give this one a try and it was just a big NOPE for me.

A book with too much hype.

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A Study in Charlotte. I saw some rave reviews on this, but I just didn’t care about it at all. I stopped reading in the middle of a chapter.

A haunting read.

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The City, maybe? None of the books on my DNF list really fall under this category, but this might be the closest.

A contemporary.

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The Replacement Crush. I had no patience at all for the main character.

A book you were unsure of.

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The Flood Girls. At the beginning of the e-ARC I had for this there was a letter from both the author AND the publisher. The fact that I needed a letter explaining the book and then another letter about how great the book is before I even started really turned me off.

Review: The Party by Robyn Harding

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds themselves entangled in a legal battle, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.

One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s picture perfect life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to unravel. A lawsuit is filed that irrevocably changes their relationship, reveals dark secrets in the Sanders’ marriage, and exposes the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah.

Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Party will be available June 6, 2017.

This is a hard book for me to review. On the one hand, I kind of hated pretty much everything about it. But on the other hand, I couldn’t stop reading it.

The characters are awful people. All of them. All the time. I thought maybe Jeff and Kim had just been through some bad times and they would get better as the story went on. They did not. Their daughter, Hannah, and her friends were all awful. Lisa, the mother of the girl to get hurt at Hannah’s party, is awful. All of Jeff and Kim’s friends are just as horrible – the one exception being Lisa’s boyfriend, Allan, who tried to be the voice of reason in her vendetta against the Sanders. It seemed like every time a character was faced with a decision they chose the wrong one. At first I was getting so upset over their actions, screaming at them in my head to stop being idiots. But around halfway through the story, I became a little more resigned to their behavior and just began waiting for the next stupid thing. There is no one to root for in this book, so for awhile I was just rooting for all of them to have their comeuppance. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the ending to be satisfactory at all.

Even though I hated all the characters, I just kept reading. At first I wanted to see the characters redeem themselves, but even after I realized that wasn’t going to happen I still wanted to see what happened. The story is told through the POVs of Kim, Jeff, Lisa, and Hannah and I thought they were all done effectively. Even though I hated them, it has to say something about the writing that I still wanted to keep reading about them.

Overall, The Party has good writing and an interesting premise, but I absolutely hated all the characters. For awhile I did enjoy hating them, but I found it really unsatisfying that they didn’t get the level of comeuppance I was hoping for, nor did they really seem to learn anything from the experience. I’m bumping my rating up a little bit, though, because the author still made me keep reading, despite my feelings about the characters.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars