Review: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of The Secrets She Keeps, the writer Stephen King calls “an absolute master…with heart and soul,” a fiendishly clever suspense novel about a dangerous young woman with a special ability to know when someone is lying—and the criminal psychologist who must outwit her to survive.

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth? Fiendishly clever, swiftly paced, and emotionally explosive, Good Girl, Bad Girl is the perfect thrilling summer read from internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham.

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

Good Girl, Bad Girl will be available July 23, 2019.

It took me quite a long time to get into Good Girl, Bad Girl. I debated giving up on it several times, but eventually the story really started to grab my attention and while I did have some issues with it, I overall enjoyed it.

First of all, don’t pay too much attention to the synopsis. I found it a little misleading, especially the part where it says Cyrus has to outwit Evie to survive. Um, no. While Evie makes him a little uncomfortable at times, he is never in danger of her. I also didn’t really see the point in involving Evie’s character in this story at all. She crosses into what I considered the main mystery of Jodie’s murder a couple of times, but not really in any impactful way (which is another misleading statement from the synopsis). I have tried to find out if this book is the beginning of a series and I can’t find it confirmed anywhere. If it truly is a standalone, then I am even more annoyed over the inclusion of Evie because all these questions are brought up and not answered! I like my loose ends all tied up in a neat little bow, thank you very much.

What I did like was the main murder mystery. I thought Robotham did an excellent job crafting a well-plotted, intriguing mystery with multiple believable suspects. Not everything that was revealed surprised me, but I didn’t guess everything from a mile away either. I liked Cyrus and Lenny, his longtime friend and the lead detective on Jodie’s investigation, and definitely wouldn’t mind reading more of them if this does end up being a series.

Overall, I enjoyed Good Girl, Bad Girl, but not quite as much as I was hoping to. I liked Cyrus and the murder mystery plotline. However, everything involving Evie just ended up annoying me because nothing was really resolved with her, nor did her plotline seem to contribute to the main one. I was also frustrated with the synopsis, but since that is not the book’s fault, I tried not to let it influence my rating. Though it took me awhile to get into the story, the writing ended up really drawing me in and I want to check out more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

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Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Everyone has a secret. For some, it’s worth dying to protect. For others, it’s worth killing.

The glass beach house was supposed to be the getaway that Susan needed. Eager to help her transplanted family set down roots in their new town – and desperate for some kid-free conversation – she invites her new neighbors to join in on a week-long sublet with her and her workaholic husband.

Over the course of the first evening, liquor loosens inhibitions and lips. The three couples begin picking up on the others’ marital tensions and work frustrations, as well as revealing their own. But someone says too much. And the next morning one of the women is discovered dead on the private beach.

Town detective Gabby Watkins must figure out who permanently silenced the deceased. As she investigates, she learns that everyone in the glass house was hiding something that could tie them to the murder, and that the biggest secrets of all are often in plain sight for anyone willing to look.

A taut, locked room mystery with an unforgettable cast of characters, One Little Secret promises to keep readers eyes glued to the pages and debating the blinders that we all put on in the service of politeness.

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

One Little Secret will be available July 9, 2019. 

I’m so sad to say that I found One Little Secret a little disappointing. I loved the previous book I read by Cate Holahan (the cleverly written Lies She Told) and had high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, while not a bad book, the mystery and the writing ended up falling a little short for me.

One Little Secret is told in alternating chapters from the POVs of three women. Jenny is a successful sports medicine commentator in an abusive marriage. Susan is a stay-at-home mom with a drinking problem and a workaholic husband. Together, with their husbands, they are renting a beach house with their other neighbors, Rachel and Ben. The third POV is from Gabby, the detective that investigates when one of the vacationing women is found dead. Out of the three of them, the only really likable character was Gabby, but I don’t feel like we ever really got to know her that well. I found both Jenny and Susan very frustrating. All three couples on vacation seemed pretty dysfunctional. I was actually expecting a lot more scandal from them, though, and was a little disappointed in how straightforward and cliched everything seemed to be.

I also felt like this almost read more like Women’s Fiction than Mystery/Thriller. While Holahan did do a good job of making me second guess myself at times, the mystery didn’t really involve anything surprising. Everything that happened seemed so coincidental and a little unbelievable. Also, I felt like every break in the case kind of just fell into Gabby’s lap instead of involving any real detective work from her. There was also a side plot involving the date rape of a young woman at a party that just barely tied into the main mystery. It felt tacked on as an effort to make some sort of relevant comment on today’s culture and was not given the attention such a topic deserves. The story seemed to focus much more on the women’s marriage, family, identity, and self-worth. The murder seemed almost an afterthought.

Overall, One Little Secret, was an ok read, but did not live up to my expectations. While the multiple narrators helped move the story along, I never really connected to any of the characters, which made it hard to care about what happened to them. While this isn’t one I would pick up again, I’d still be interested in reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Sweet on You (Bradford Sisters Romance #3) by Becky Wade

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Britt and Zander have been best friends since they met thirteen years ago, but unbeknownst to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long. When Zander’s uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Washington to investigate. As they work together to uncover his uncles tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also come to light?
I received a copy of this title via a giveaway on Goodreads. It does not impact my review.

-This is the third book in the Bradford Sisters Romance series, but it’s the first one I’ve read. While I’m sure I would’ve felt a little more connected to the secondary characters if I had read the previous books, it worked well as a standalone. I never felt lost or confused.

-I love a good Friends-to-More romance. I liked Zander and Britt’s friendship, though I must admit I enjoyed Zander much more than I did Britt.

-This is a Christian fiction book, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. While there were some good, relatable points, I felt like the Christian themes were a little uneven. They seemed to pop up here and there, instead of being a natural part of the characters’ lives. And then towards the end the message got pretty heavy-handed. It was still a good message, so I didn’t mind it, but I wish it would’ve been done a little more smoothly.

-The mystery of the story revolves not around Zander’s uncle’s death, but his secret past life. Frank is not even his uncle’s real name. Zander and Britt, with the help of a few others, research Frank’s previous life and discover that he might have been involved in a famous art heist. This plotline was interesting, but the focus of the book is really on the romance, so it wasn’t quite as in depth as I wanted it to be, but that’s ok. What did bother me, though, was that we don’t really explore how finding out Frank’s lies effects his wife, Carolyn, their daughters, or Zander and his brother, who were taken in by Frank and Carolyn as kids. I can tell you from experience that finding out a loved one had spent your whole life lying to you brings up some stuff, but it was kind of just skipped right over here.

-Britt was very hard for me to like. She was so impulsive and short-tempered and she just really frustrated me. While she did work very hard at her business, she was also pretty privileged and spoiled. She came across a little shallow and fake to me, too. She did learn some lessons by the end of the story, but the book failed to convince me why Zander couldn’t get over her in thirteen years. He deserved better.

Overall, I enjoyed Sweet on You, despite a few issues. I always enjoy the Friends-to-More trope and the mystery was interesting. I liked Zander, but Britt really brought the story down for me. I’m decreasing my final rating a bit because of her. However, I would still suggest this one to fans of Christian Contemporary. This was my first book by Wade and I plan to look into some of her other books.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) by Helen Hoang

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

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

I really wanted to like this book a little more than I did. There was a lot to like about it, but overall it ended up just being ok for me.

What I Liked

  • Learning a little bit about Vietnamese culture. I would’ve liked to have seen a lot more, honestly, but I thought it added a different dimension to the story than a lot of other “arranged marriage” type books I’ve read and I liked that.
  • I LOVED the relationship between Khai and his brother Quan. It made the whole book for me. Quan was so understanding and protective and patient with Khai, but he also didn’t treat him with kid gloves, either. I just loved pretty much every scene that had the two of them together and I could’ve used a lot more Quan.
  • Khai is on the autism spectrum and I thought it came across as a pretty accurate portrayal. I liked watching his journey as he learned things about himself throughout the book. I enjoyed the chapters from his POV the most.

What didn’t work for Me

  • This is my fault more than the book’s, but I thought this was a Women’s Fiction book, but it’s straight up Romance. I was expecting something with a little more substance and a little less description of body parts and sex. It left me a little disappointed in the overall plot.
  • I had to continually remind myself that Esme was only 23. I know that she was coming to a new country and all and was naive in some things, but she wasn’t a wide-eyed innocent type of character, either. She just seemed so immature so much of the time and I found myself frustrated a lot by her interactions with Khai.
  • Speaking of her interactions with Khai, I wish that someone would have more fully explained Khai’s autism to Esme earlier in their relationship. So often she’s left frustrated and hurt after their interactions and had she understood him a little more, I felt she would have been able to respond in a more positive way and they could work out their issues together. There are a few times throughout the book that he’s able to explain something about himself and she adjusts how she approaches him and had she understood his autism earlier, they would have had way less issues. I’m not saying that there wouldn’t have been times she wasn’t frustrated or hurt, but I think it would have forced her to communicate her feelings and thoughts to him.
  • I felt like the pace was pretty slow and nothing really happened for long stretches of time. It took me quite awhile to really get into the story and to start caring about the romance between Esme and Khai. There were a few cute moments, but I never really fell in love with them.

Overall

Overall, The Bride Test was just ok for me. I liked the inclusion of Autism and Vietnamese culture, and loved the brotherly relationship between Khai and Quan, but Esme’s immaturity and the heavy Romance content left me a little underwhelmed. It’s not a book I would plan on reading again, but I think there will be a lot of people out there who will really enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

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

Serious Moonlight will be available April 16, 2019. 

Serious Moonlight may not have ended up being exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was still the type of enjoyable, quick read I’ve come to expect from Jenn Bennett.

I thought that the mystery and the historic hotel that Birdie and Daniel work at would play larger roles in the story. I expected a little bit of a creepy vibe, as well. However, the book stays firmly Contemporary in tone. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, I was just expecting something a little bit different. The mystery left a lot to be desired for me. I never really understood why they cared that much about it and it wasn’t until the final “twist” that it made sense why one of them was interested. However, it was a good excuse for Birdie and Daniel to spend time together and get to know each other and have fun, bantery conversations that I quite enjoyed. I definitely shipped them together.

The story wasn’t all cute and lightness, though. Deceased parents, unplanned pregnancies, deadbeat dads, Narcolepsy, depression, suicide, isolation, and abandonment issues are all explored. It was kind of a lot to juggle, but Bennett did a pretty good job of it. I especially thought the inclusion of Narcolepsy was really interesting. I’ve never read a book where a character suffered from that and it involves a lot more than just randomly falling asleep, like I thought.

One thing I didn’t like about the book, however, is the irresponsible view on sex. I think that it had the opportunity to really explore the emotional repercussions of casual sex, but it never really went there. The “advice” Birdie gets from the adult in her life is basically not to take things so seriously. In a book meant for adults I could probably ignore it, but for one marketed to teens, I wish there was a better message on the subject.

Overall, I enjoyed Serious Moonlight. While there were a lot of heavier topics to deal with, at it’s heart it was a cute contemporary romance that I shipped. I really liked Birdie and Daniel together. There were many cute moments between them, including one of the coolest first date experiences I’ve ever heard of. I think fans of more serious YA contemporaries will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of JP Delaney’s The Girl Before and Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 comes this hair-raising novel of deception and revenge that will blow readers away.

Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are ruthlessly ambitious high-flyers working in the lucrative world of Wall Street finance where deception and intimidation thrive. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to reach the top.

When they are ordered to participate in a corporate team-building exercise that requires them to escape from a locked elevator, dark secrets of their team begin to be laid bare.

The biggest mystery to solve in this lethal game: What happened to Sara Hall? Once a young shining star—now “gone but not forgotten”.

This is no longer a game.
They’re fighting for their lives.

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

The Escape Room will be available August 6, 2019. 

The Escape Room started out well, but seemed to lose steam as the story progressed. While it was still overall an enjoyable read, it didn’t quite live up to it’s potential, or my expectations.

The story is told in alternating chapters between past and present. In the present, we get the third person perspectives of investment bankers Vincent, Jules, Sam, and Sylvie who are stuck in an elevator in what they were led to believe is a team building escape room challenge. The past chapters are from the first person POV of Sara Hall detailing how she came to work at the firm with the others and what it ultimately led to. At first, I had a hard time caring about Sara’s chapters because she felt removed from the more pressing action going on in the elevator. After awhile, though, I became more invested in her.

While I was initially much more interested in what was going on with the group in the elevator, their appeal wore off rather quickly. The clues for the escape room were few and far between and what should have felt suspenseful and nerve-wracking just became a little boring and drawn out. Most of the chapters were made up of character exploration, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when each and every one of the characters are so detestable, it’s kind of chore to get through. There was absolutely nothing sympathetic or redeeming about any of them. They were all selfish and shallow and manipulative. It made me not care about the stakes because I didn’t really care what happened to any of these characters. I also wish the atmosphere was a little more claustrophobic and stressful. For the most part there was a lot of repetition about how they bumped into each other in the dark and the heater was on really high and it didn’t really do anything for me.

Overall, I did find The Escape Room enjoyable, but it fell a little flat for me. The character development was really well done. I just wish that any of characters were worth caring about. I figured out what I think was supposed to be a twist pretty early on in the story and I found the ending a little anticlimactic, as well. However, I think there will be a lot of people that find this a fun summer read and I would be interested in seeing what else Megan Goldin does in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Wedding Deal (Heart in the Game #1) by Cindi Madsen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Former quarterback Lance Quaid just inherited the most losing team in the NFL. He’s got only a few weeks until draft day to turn things around, and after firing more than half his staff, he can’t do it alone. Thankfully, his HR manager is more than capable, if only she’d stop focusing on “due diligence” and stop looking so sexy while she’s yelling at him.

Charlotte James has made a life out of following the rules. But nothing could have prepared her for Lance Quaid––he’s a human resources nightmare. The man is brash, has no filter, and, as her new boss, is constantly relying on her to cover his ass. Which is admittedly quite nice.

When Lance begs her to join him on a trip down the coast for his brother’s wedding so they can finalize details––on a strictly business basis––she agrees…after they fill out the necessary forms, of course. Away from the office, though, sparks start flying as the team starts coming together. But both of them know anything more than the weekend would be a colossally bad idea––after all, the extra paperwork would be a nightmare.

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

The Wedding Deal will be available March 25, 2019. 

I’ve enjoyed several Cindi Madsen books and thought The Wedding Deal looked like the perfect book to feed my Contemporary craving. While I did like it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

I felt the book was much longer than it needed to be. I thought there was too much repetition and the story dragged a little bit. There’s only so many times I need to hear how distracted a character is by their attractive co-worker’s [insert body part here]. I also really dislike long chapters and the majority of the chapters were much longer than I prefer.

That said, I did really enjoy the romance. I thought Lance and Charlotte complemented each other so well, professionally and personally. While there was a little too much of the whole “he/she is so attractive” rhetoric, there was also a lot of discussion about how smart, caring, funny, and hard-working each other were. They helped make each other better, too. I really appreciated that the romance was based on so much more than the physical and I definitely shipped them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wedding Deal. While it was a little too long for my taste, I did really like the romance and the sweet relationship Charlotte and Lance developed. I also thought the story was set apart a little bit from the normal Sports Romance by focusing on the owner of a team instead of a player. I would recommend it to someone looking for a light romance and doesn’t mind long chapters.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars