Review: Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

He’s a Wall Street wolf. She’s been hired to tame him. From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes a wildly sexy novel of business and pleasure.

Twenty-eight and filthy rich, Matt Cannon is the youngest broker on Wall Street. He may be a “boy wonder,” but he’s every inch a man. Ask any woman—any night. But when Matt’s latest fling makes scandalous headlines, his clients get anxious, and his bosses at Wolfe Investments level an ultimatum: keep his assets zipped, get a “real” girlfriend, and clean up his act. Only one woman can help Matt with something this hard.

For PR genius Sabrina Cross, the best fixer in Manhattan, playing Matt’s steady is going to be a challenge, even if it’s just for show. They already have an explosive history, she can’t stand the cocky party boy, and worse—she can’t stop thinking about him. So who’ll dare to break her “no touching” rule first? Because when that happens, Matt and Sabrina’s game of let’s pretend will get so hot it could set both their reputations on fire.

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

Hard Sell will be available September 4, 2018. 

I love Lauren Layne books. They are always the perfect choice to get me out of any reading slump. Hard Sell is the second book in the 21 Wall Street series and I think I enjoyed it even more than the first.

I love both Fake Relationship and Hate-to-Love stories and this book utilized both. In the first book of the series Matt and Sabrina were side characters and I wasn’t really sold on the idea of them being in a relationship, but I did end up really liking them together here. They’ve kind of had this dysfunctional thing for a few years and it was a slow burn to actual love and romance and I was here for it. I thought they were really well suited for each other and I liked how their friendship evolved, along with the romance.

Like all of Layne’s books there were a couple of scenes that were a little more graphic than I like, but other than that I enjoyed pretty much every moment of the book. I like the cast of characters and I am really looking forward to getting a book focusing on Kennedy and Kate. One thing I would’ve liked to have seen a little more, though, is Kate’s job. She’s a “fixer” so I felt like there were endless possibilities for a little extra fun or drama, but there’s really not much done with it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hard Sell. Layne is easily one of my favorite Romance authors and I just love her more with each book I read. I definitely recommend this to Romance fans. While it is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girlsand The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

I received a copy of this title from the publisher (Thanks William Morrow!). It does not impact my review. 

I always look forward to a new Karin Slaughter book. I used to get a little upset whenever one of her upcoming titles was not a Will Trent book, but I have really enjoyed all of her standalone novels and have learned to appreciate getting something a little different as I wait for more Will. And Pieces of Her was definitely different than anything I’ve read from  Slaughter before. The mystery is not so much a Whodunnit as a Whydunnit. While there are still surprises and suspense, it made the tone of the story different than I expected.

I really liked the use of multiple POVs and timelines. Slaughter utilizes this style so well. It’s one of my favorite things about her writing. I thought the issues were pretty timely, even though one timeline was set 30+ years ago. It shines a light on the corruption of the powerful, as well as the misguided, violent atrocities people commit in the name of social justice. While I liked both of the main characters and timelines, I have to admit I liked the 1980s chapters a little more. While there was maybe a little more action in the present, the real heart of the story happened 30 years before.

She had always believed – vehemently, with great conviction – that the only way to change the world was to destroy it. 

I found the character of Nick fascinating. Horrible, but fascinating. The cult like adoration he managed to manipulate out of people and the  control he was able to hold over them, even when they knew they were being manipulated, was kind of horrifying. Even though they were under his spell (and had an abundance of issues themselves) I really liked Jane and Andrew. In the present chapters, I found Andrea a little hard to understand at times. I am not somebody who should be judging someone for being quiet, but she really took it to extremes. I often wondered if she had some kind of mental disability, but it’s never addressed. However, she was still a sympathetic and interesting character. While the circumstances are different, I really related to the sudden discovery of learning everything you thought you knew about your parent was a lie.

Overall, I really enjoyed Pieces of Her. While it was different than I’ve come to expect from Slaughter, it still had the excellent writing, clever twists, and compelling characters she’s known for. My only struggle with it was how long the chapters were (there are close to 500 pages and there are only 15 chapters, plus an epilogue) which is not my favorite thing, but I’m sure many other won’t be bothered by it. I still definitely recommend this one to mystery/thriller fans and am eagerly anticipating more from Slaughter.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Most men can’t handle Hazel. With the energy of a toddler and the mouth of a sailor, they’re often too timid to recognize her heart of gold. New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (RoomiesBeautiful Bastard) tells the story of two people who are definitely not dating, no matter how often they end up in bed together.

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

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

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating will be available September 4, 2018. 

I’ve had some mixed reviews with the Christina Lauren books I’ve read so I’m never really sure what to expect when I pick one up. However, I do know that there will be some addicting writing that will make the book hard to put down and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was exactly that.

Hazel. I’m having a hard time deciding on my feelings towards her. Since I have recently been binging old New Girl episodes on Netflix, I’m going to compare her to Season 1 Jess. They really leaned into the whole “adorkable” angle and sometimes she was a little unbearable. In later seasons she was still quirky, but in a more endearing way. In some parts of this book Hazel was kind of aggressively quirky in a Season 1 Jess kind of way. But in others, she was just a little odd and cute. I didn’t find her character all that consistent throughout the story. Even though she often stated that she knew she was a lot to handle and she wasn’t going to change for anybody, I also got the feeling that she felt kind of sorry for herself about it and wished she could? There were times I felt like she was trying to be different for the sake of being different. Then there were other times where she seemed pretty normal. As you can see, I still feel a little conflicted about it. Overall, I think she could be a little unbearable at times, but I mostly enjoyed her.

I was a much bigger fan of Josh. He was so funny and sweet and I just adored him. I liked how protective he was of Hazel. Even though he could come off uptight about a lot of things, he seemed to be the perfect amount of laid back to be able to go with the flow with Hazel. I liked his relationship with his sister and his parents, as well. We get a little bit of information on Korean culture from him, but I would’ve liked a little more.

I’m a fan of the Friends-to-More trope so I shipped Josh and Hazel. However, I wish it would’ve taken a little longer for them to really fall for each other. We get both their POVs which means we find out basically right away that Hazel has always had a thing for Josh and then Josh pretty quickly starts to like her, too. However, they both think they’re wrong for each other and they’re both unsure how the other feels and by getting both POVs it kind of takes away all the tension. It just kind of made me annoyed with both of them. There were still some really cute and romantic scenes, though (and several graphic scenes I could’ve done without, but I’m sure other readers will appreciate).

Overall, I enjoyed Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. It was cute, funny, and I shipped the romance. However, Hazel was kind of hard to take at times and there wasn’t a moment where I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next. While the story utilized one of my favorite romantic tropes, Friends-to-More, it also employs one of my least favorites (I’m not going to say which since it’s too spoiler-y) and I have to say that dampened my overall enjoyment a bit. I do definitely recommend this one to Romance fans, though, especially Christina Lauren fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Top 5 Wednesday: Biggest Disappointments of 2018 (So Far)

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday is a freebie, so I decided to go with my Biggest Disappointments of 2018 (So Far).

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1. My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. I absolutely loved My Lady Jane and I had such high expectations for My Plain Jane. However, I thought the humor was forced, I was not at all into the Jane Eyre-Ghostbusters mash-up, and didn’t really care for any of the characters.

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2. Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi. I had really enjoyed the original trilogy when I first read them and always felt there was potential for more story there. However, instead of moving the story forward very much, Mafi just retreads old ground and took away almost all the progress Juliette and Warner made.

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3. Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin. Black-Eyed Susans is one of my favorite books and I’ve been looking forward to more from Heaberlin ever since reading it. Unfortunately, Paper Ghosts didn’t come close to meeting my expectations. The main character was not only unlikable, but her total ineptitude after constantly talking about how well trained she was was baffling.

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4. The Isaac Project by Sarah Monzon. I hyped myself on this book years ago after one really great review. Earlier this year it finally was offered free for a limited time on Kindle and I was so excited to snatch it up. Unfortunately, lackluster writing and a really unlikable main character kept it from living up to it’s potential.

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5. The Date by Louise Jensen. I have seen nothing by wonderful things about Louise Jensen books and I was excited to finally read one. I was so sad this one didn’t live up to the hype at all for me. A pretty cliched storyline and a “twist” I saw coming a mile away is going to make me think twice before picking up another book by her.

What are some of your biggest disappointments of 2018?