Review: In Dog We Trust by Beth Kendrick

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of Once Upon a Wine, a new novel set in the charming seashore town of Black Dog Bay, Delaware.

When everything has gone to the dogs . . .

When Jocelyn Hillier is named legal guardian for the late Mr. Allardyce’s pack of pedigreed Labrador retrievers, her world is flipped upside down. She’s spent her entire life toiling in the tourism industry in Black Dog Bay and never expected to be living the pampered life of a seasonal resident in an ocean side mansion, complete with a generous stipend. But her new role isn’t without its challenges: The dogs (although lovable) are more high-maintenance than any Hollywood diva, the man she wants to marry breaks her heart, and she’s confronted at every turn by her late benefactor’s estranged son, Liam, who thinks he’s entitled to the inheritance left to the dogs.

Jocelyn has worked too hard to back down without a fight, and she’s determined to keep her new fur family together. As she strives to uphold the “Best in Show” standards her pack requires, Jocelyn finds love, family, and forgiveness in the most unexpected places.

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

In Dog We Trust will be available January 8, 2019.

After a couple of really heavy reads, I needed something light and uplifting and In Dog We Trust was just that. I really enjoyed visiting Black Dog Bay again. It’s such a cute, quirky little town that I wish was real so I could go there. I liked that there were some brief cameos of characters from previous books, but you definitely don’t have to have read any of them to be able to read this one.

I thought the idea of this book was really fun. I’ve heard of eccentric, rich people leaving all their money to their pets, but never really understood how that worked. Jocelyn is named the guardian of three champion show dogs and that means she gets to move into their big, fancy beach house and controls all the money. Despite becoming rich overnight, Jocelyn never goes crazy with the money. She still works her previous job and only makes a couple small purchases that aren’t dog-related. I liked that she stayed so level-headed with all of that money. I also really enjoyed her relationship with the dogs. She is definitely a die-hard animal lover and while I may not entirely relate to it, I know there are lots of dog lovers out there that will really get it.

I liked the romance, though it was not nearly as central to the plot as I expected it to be. Jocelyn and Liam’s relationship grew pretty organically without any big, sweeping romantic moments, but employed smaller sweet and subtle ones. There was a lot more focus between Jocelyn’s relationship with her best friend, Bree, and with her mother, Rachel. I loved seeing these three strong women interact and get stuff done.

There were a few things I didn’t like, though. There are some legal things that happen towards the end of the book that I didn’t love how they turned out, but I also would’ve like a little more clarity on the whole thing. I also expected dog shows to be much more prevalent. We only see one show and none of the diva-like high maintenance upkeep that is described in the synopsis.

Overall, I really enjoyed In Dog We Trust. It was light and fun and I never wanted to put it down. I’ve been looking forward to reading more from Beth Kendrick and she didn’t disappoint. I think Chick Lit fans and dog-lovers would really enjoy this one, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

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Review: Hot Winter Nights (Heartbreaker Bay #6) by Jill Shalvis

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

I received a copy via the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

I’ve really been in the mood for cute romances lately and Hot Winter Nights definitely fit the bill.

I liked both Molly and Lucas. I thought they really complemented each other well and made a good team. I thought they got together, physically at least, a little more quickly than I would’ve liked, but I did definitely ship them together. I enjoyed their banter and how they had each other’s backs. I also liked how Molly’s physical disability was portrayed. Though she had some struggles, she didn’t let it keep her from doing the things she wanted.

There were a couple of things I found a little odd. One thing I’ve noticed about this series is that all the chapters are titled with hashtags and for the life of me I can’t understand why. Social media is not really a part of the story at all and I just don’t get the hashtags. Speaking of social media, though, I also recognized a lot of the funny one-liners from Molly’s friends or the elderly elves were actually from memes I’ve seen on Pinterest. Other than those small things, the only thing I didn’t really like about the book were that there were a few more sexual scenes than I care to read, but from reading other Shalvis books I kind of expected it so it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment that much.

Overall, I enjoyed Hot Winter Nights. I thought it was a cute romance with likable lead characters. I liked that the investigation plotline brought a little bit of action and suspense, as well. I definitely recommend this one to Romance fans, especially fans of Jill Shalvis.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 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

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“This is simply one of the nastiest and most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years. In short: I loved it, right down to the utterly chilling final line.” —Gillian Flynn

This is a love story. Mike’s love story.

Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.

It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.

It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…

A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

Well, this was a twisted little tale. Based off of my experience with similar books, I expected Mike to be your standard sociopath, but I didn’t really feel he was. He has some obvious mental health issues and while he did lack empathy for most people and situations, he didn’t lack ALL empathy. I mostly just felt bad for his poor, delusional life. However, I was pretty much on his side the whole time and I don’t even feel uncomfortable saying that.

I did not care for Verity at all. Never getting her POV, I’m not really sure how much of what she said was true. I think Mike read way too much into what she said and assigned meaning to her words that weren’t true, but she was still not a good person. I thought she was purposefully cruel where Mike just took all of his cues from her and didn’t seem to know better. I also thought for how well she knew him, she had to have known how some of her actions would seem to him. I kind of spent the whole book waiting for her to go down.

I felt like this book was much longer than it needed to be. Dude, we get it. You love V and you want to be with her and you’re playing an elaborate game. It just went around and around like that for far too long. Additionally, instead of traditional chapters, the story was told in three very large parts and I think that contributed to making it feel long. I did enjoy Part 3 of the book much more than the first two parts, though.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Our Kind of Cruelty, but I didn’t love it. I thought it went on a little too long and did not find the story quite as compelling as similar books. However, I did really like the final part of the story and I liked Mike. This book wouldn’t be for everyone, but there is definitely a niche audience for it that will love it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

 

Review: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

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

Baby Teeth will be available July 17, 2018.

The hype for Baby Teeth has been building for months. It’s mostly the reason I’ve kept putting off reading this because I was afraid my expectations were too high. And while it didn’t quite live up to the hype, it was still a pretty entertaining read.

It took me a little while to get into the story. The writing style, especially when it came to Hanna’s POV, took some getting used to. But once I really got into the story and could start to appreciate what a little psycho Hanna was I started to enjoy it. I became invested in the characters and really wanted to see how it would all turn out.

While I enjoyed seeing what crazy thing Hanna would do next, I did think it dragged on a little too long. The same type of things just kept happening again and again and there was a lot of needless description. Towards the end of the book the plot really began to advance and the power struggle between mother and daughter was really compelling to me and then it just abruptly ended. The ending felt more like it was leaving things open for a sequel than properly giving any type of closure to a stand-alone story. I found it disappointing that just when I was really getting into it, it was over.

Overall, Baby Teeth was certainly an entertaining read, but fell short of the hype for me. A little steadier pace and a less abrupt ending would have made it a little better, in my opinion. I don’t know if this book would be for everyone, but I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy it. I could definitely see it becoming a fun, creepy movie.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Set in a dangerous near future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart, but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

The Book of M will be available June 5, 2018. 

The Book of M is certainly an ambitious debut. Covering multiple characters, countries, and time in painstaking detail, it explores a new dystopian world where the loss of memories results in dangerous magic.

While I did like the book, I wanted to like it more than I actually did. The pace is pretty slow as the world building is established and it took me awhile to really get into the story. The writing was very detailed and I personally would have appreciated a little less. I thought it made the book much longer than it needed to be. However, it was pretty character-driven and I did feel like I got to know the main characters pretty well.

The story is told in the POV of Ory, Max, Naz, and The One Who Gathers. Ory and Max are married and when Max loses her shadow she decides to leave Ory so she won’t accidentally hurt him. She comes across a group of other Shadowless heading to New Orleans and joins them. Ory is desperate to find her and along the way comes across a group of other Shadowed, including Naz, a former Olympic hopeful in archery who now helps lead the soldiers of her group. Both groups are trying to find out if the rumors they’ve heard about New Orleans are true. The One Who Gathers was once just a man with retrograde amnesia who became connected with the first man to lose his shadow and his memories, but has become something incredibly different. I did think all the POVs were well done. I liked all of the characters, but I never really fell in love with any of them, which made it kind of difficult to really care about what happened to them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Book of M, but I didn’t love it. I liked the characters and how they all became connected. However, I thought the plot was a little drawn out and felt the emotional impact I was supposed to experience missed the mark a bit. While this dystopian tale may not be for me, I think there will be a lot of people that will really like it. I recommend it if you enjoy character-driven novels with a touch of magical realism. I do look forward to seeing what Peng Shepherd writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Just One of the Royals (The Chicago Falcons #2) by Leah & Kate Rooper

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Star hockey player Daniel Sacachelli wants only two things: 1) for the Falcons to win next season, and 2) for his secret — the fact he’s actually the prince of Eldonia — to never make its way to Chicago. But if Daniel keeps avoiding his crown, their family will lose their kingdom forever.

Madison Myong can’t believe that her will-they-or-won’t-they best friend Daniel is really a prince! He’s always seemed more rebel than royal. But now, he needs to clean up his image, fast. Posing as his long-time girlfriend, Madison accompanies him back to Eldonia, intending to give Daniel a makeover fit for a king.

Only, the more royal Daniel becomes, the more Madison misses her best friend. And if she does her job right, she’ll lose him forever…

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

Just One of the Royals will be available June 4, 2018.

Just One of the Royals is the second book in a series about members of a junior hockey team. I haven’t read the first book in the series yet (from what I gather it sounds very similar to the move She’s the Man, but with hockey instead of soccer), but found this could be read easily as a standalone.

I really liked the friendships in the book. The guys on the hockey team, plus Madison (the trainer) were all pretty close and they looked out for each other. I liked that there weren’t any frenemies or mean girls. I also enjoyed Daniel’s relationship with his half-sister and with his mother. He was super sweet with both of them and I loved it.

The fake-relationship trope is one of my favorites and was the main reason for me wanting to read this book. However, I didn’t really think that aspect of the book was very well done. The reason for them trying to fake a relationship was pretty flimsy to start with and then there were none of the fun moments where they had to try to prove to people they were together. They just like held hands a couple times? Kissed for the cameras once. No one in Eldonia really cared about their “relationship” at all and it just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It felt a lot more like Friends-To-More than Fake Relationship.

Overall, Just One of the Royals, was a cute read and I liked that it was written by two sisters, but it’s probably not a book I would want to pick up again. I liked Daniel and how all the relationships were portrayed, but was disappointed in the lack of Fake Relationship drama and also that I didn’t find Madison to be very likable. If you enjoy sports romances and are trying to feed your Royal Wedding hangover, you might enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars