Review: Blitzed (Playbook #3) by Alexa Martin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Maxwell has finally met an opponent that he can’t best in this new football romance from the author of Fumbled.

According to Brynn Larson, Maxwell Lewis is more trouble than he’s worth. She doesn’t care if he’s a football god with a rock-hard body that brings most women to their knees. After an encounter that ends poorly, she’s not interested in giving him a second chance. The last thing Brynn expects is for him to turn up at her bar months later, hat in hand. It doesn’t matter if he brings more customers to her business–she’s still not going on a date with him.

Maxwell knows he made a mistake. He’d been waiting to make his move on Brynn since the day he laid eyes on her and he was finally ready to go for it until he screwed up. He wishes he could tell her the truth about what happened that night, but he just can’t. He can’t tell anyone, so he’ll make amends and hope she’ll forgive him.

Brynn’s not like other women, though. Playing for the Mustangs doesn’t impress her and gifts make her scoff. Max will have to bring his A game if he hopes to win her over.

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

Blitzed will be available December 3, 2019. 

I’ve really enjoyed the other books in the Playbook series and while I did like Blitzed, I didn’t think it was quite as good as the others were.

I have been looking forward to Brynn’s story for awhile now. I was glad we finally got to learn a little more about her, but she wasn’t as likable as I expected her to be. She was really hardworking and dedicated to her job and cared a lot about her friends and father, which are all good characteristics. But I also found her kind of shallow, materialistic, and a little pervy. She also had kind of extreme reactions to things that I found frustrating, especially when it came to the big final conflict. I found Maxwell more likable, but didn’t feel like we ever got to know him very well. I also liked seeing the characters from the previous books again, especially TK and Poppy.

There’s a bit of a mystery involving Maxwell’s relationship with his brother, Theo. Theo keeps popping up trying to find Maxwell and Maxwell just keeps telling Brynn not to talk to him. With how many times this is brought up, I thought the conclusion to that plotline deserved a little more attention than it got. It basically provided a couple chapter’s worth of unnecessary drama with Brynn and a small bit of commentary on a current social issue, and that’s it.

Overall, Blitzed was just ok for me. I did ship the romance between Brynn and Maxwell, but I wasn’t as into them as I were the other couples from previous books. This is still definitely worth the read for fans of the series, though, and I am looking forward to more from Martin.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I am having such a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. I’m just going to list it all out.

The Starless Sea was probably my most anticipated book of the year (I’m sure the same can be said for many of you, as well). In a year where most of my anticipated reads have left me terribly disappointed, I was super nervous to start it. However, I could tell right at the beginning that Morgenstern’s writing style was just as beautiful as I remembered it.

-The writing really was beautiful and magical and descriptive, all the things that helped make me fall in love with The Night Circus. There was just something missing for me, though. I think, despite how beautifully written it was, I never really got very invested in the story. It is a story within a story, within many stories. It’s hard to wrap my head around it and I’m not even going to try to explain it. The only parts I looked forward to were the chapters with Zachary Ezra Rawlins (his full name is used a lot). I kind of wanted to skim through all the other stories, but it didn’t take long to realize all the other stories were integral to the plot and you have to pay attention to them. Even if you don’t really understand some of them. Or maybe that’s just me?

-I did really like Zachary. I thought he was a very empathetic character and I was very interested to see what happened with him. However, he was the only character that I really cared about. Dorian was ok. Kat was ok, but seemed a little unnecessary? Allegra, Maribel, the Keeper, and the rest didn’t really do anything for me. I think my lack of connection with the characters kept me from having much of an emotional connection with the book.

-I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. It seemed a little too long at times and also not quite long enough. I didn’t care for the ending. I felt like I needed a little more “this is what happened to Zachary Ezra Rawlins” than what we got. I liked it, but not as much as The Night Circus and not as much as I was expecting to. However, I will definitely read whatever Morgenstern writes next, even if it takes another 8 years.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Woman in the Water (DS Imogen Grey #6) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Sunday Times bestselling author of The Teacher and Truth or Die is back with a new twisty crime thriller

I’m alive. But I can’t be saved . . .

When a woman’s body is found submerged in icy water, police are shocked to find she is alive. But she won’t disclose her name, or what happened to her – even when a second body is discovered. And then she disappears from her hospital bed.

Detectives Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey follow their only lead to the home of Reece Corrigan, and when his wife Angela walks in, they immediately recognise her. She’s the woman from the river, with her injuries carefully masked.

The more they dig into the couple, the less they understand about them.

Why have people in their past been hurt, or vanished?

And why doesn’t Angela want to be saved?

Smart, shocking and twisty – perfect for fans of Cara Hunter and Karin Slaughter.

Praise for Katerina Diamond:

‘All hail the new Queen of Crime’ Heat

‘Deliciously dark . . . Keeps her readers guessing throughout, as she leads us on a very secretive, VERY twisted journey’ Lisa Hall, author of The Party

‘Packed with twists until the last page’ Closer

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

Woman in the Water will be available November 11, 2019. 

I very eagerly anticipated the release of Truth or Die earlier this year and thought it would be another year before the next book in the series came out. I was super happy to discover that Woman in the Water was also publishing this year. While I did enjoy it, I have some mixed feelings about it, as well.

I don’t know if it’s because the book was maybe rushed to release this year or if it’s because of a new editor (in the Acknowledgments the author mentions a former editor, so I’m assuming the editor of this book was different than the others), but the quality didn’t seem quite as good as the other books in the series. The dialogue felt a little awkward sometimes, there was a lot of repetition, and the mystery left a little to be desired.

That said, I love Adrian and Imogen and I was just happy to spend time with them. I knew since they finally got together in the previous book that there would have to be something to throw a wrench into their relationship this time around. And there is. First, Adrian loses his head a bit during the investigation, as it brings up a lot of bad memories from his childhood. Then, he ends up having something very traumatic happen to him. It’s hard to talk about without having spoilers, but it was very hard to read and most the rest of the book focuses on him trying to come to terms with it. In true Adrian fashion, he deals with it in the least emotionally healthy way possible, which includes lying to Imogen and pushing her away. While that was frustrating, I do think Adrian’s reactions were authentic and it is definitely an important topic.

I thought the mystery was intriguing and had a lot of potential, but it kind of failed to reach it. We’re told over and over how evil Reece is and I kept expecting something big to be revealed, but he was kind of your run of the mill bad guy. We never really get the motivation behind his particular brand of villainy and the big reveal at the end seemed tacked on for shock value instead of being a satisfying or shocking twist.

Overall, I loved spending more time with Adrian and Imogen, but Woman in the Water was not my favorite book of the series. The subject matter of what happened with Adrian is important and I thought it was pretty well done, but I wish a little more development went into the central mystery. The story ends with some big changes going forward and I’m eager to see how those develop. Though I didn’t enjoy this book as much I hoped to, I’m still a big Katerina Diamond fan and can’t wait to read more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment WeeklyMy Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

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

Twice in a Blue Moon will be available October 22, 2019. 

Twice in a Blue Moon was cute and compulsively readable, which is what I expect when I pick up a Christina Lauren book.

The story starts out fourteen years in the past with 18-year-old Tate on a trip to London with her grandmother. They run into a couple of other American tourists and Tate falls into insta-lust with Sam. She ends up telling him things about herself she’s never told anyone, including her relationship with her super famous father. Their relationship ends abruptly when he ghosts her after selling her story to the press. Fast forward to the present and Tate is now a famous actor herself and is set to star in a much buzzed about movie with her father. She’s thrown for a loop when she arrives on set and discovers the screenwriter is Sam.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a long time to get on board this ship. Tate and Sam’s relationship was really insta-lovey. They were only together for a couple of weeks and I never really bought into it as something real. I understand how fourteen years later the trauma of the betrayal may still affect them, but the puppy love surviving was a bit of a stretch for me. The whole second chance aspect of it wasn’t done as effectively as I thought it could have been, either. While I’m all for forgiveness, I felt like Sam was let off the hook a little too easily. He basically sold her out because his family needed money and going to the tabloids was the most expedient way to get it. He also says he would do it all over again if had to because what the money did for his family was worth it. But he felt really bad about it, so it’s all ok. I had a hard time rooting for him.

That said, as the story went on, they did grow on me. There were some cute moments I enjoyed. I also enjoyed several of the supporting characters, including Tate’s Manager, Marco, and her co-star, Nick. I could’ve used a little more of them, actually.

Overall, Twice in a Blue Moon was enjoyable, but not my favorite book by this duo. Christina Lauren’s writing was as addictive as always, though, and I look forward to reading more from them.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Four Christmases and a Secret by Zara Stoneley

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except for Daisy Christmas means another of Uncle T’s dreaded Christmas parties, complete with Christmas jumper and flashing antlers.  And Oliver Cartwright.  Gorgeous Oliver Cartwright. Who she hates.

Every year Daisy has to face insufferable Ollie and hear all about how BRILLIANT he is.  Whereas Daisy has no job, no man and no idea how to fix things.

This Christmas however Daisy is determined things will be different.  There will be no snogging Ollie under the mistletoe like when they were teenagers.  No, this year she’ll show Ollie that she’s a Responsible Adult too.

But as the champagne corks pop, and the tinsel sparkles, Uncle T has news of his own to share…and it could change Daisy’s life forever…

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

Four Christmases and a Secret will be available September 27, 2019. 

When it comes to gearing up for the holidays, I don’t typically want to see anything Christmas-related until after Thanksgiving. However, I will always make an exception for two things: Hallmark Christmas movies and Christmas-themed books. Throw in that beautiful cover and I was all in for Four Christmases and a Secret.

This is one of those books where I don’t feel the synopsis does the story justice. It’s slightly misleading and doesn’t really explain about what the book really is. While there are definite Christmas and Romance themes, I really felt like this one fell more into the Women’s Fiction category. Daisy is quite a mess when we first meet her and a big part of the book is made up of her getting her act together. With a lot of encouragement and support from Uncle Terrence and Ollie, she gets her confidence back and figures out what she actually wants out of life. I did like her journey and found her a likable character. I also loved Ollie, Uncle Terrence, and Daisy’s mother. It seems to be a bit of a Stoneley signature for the main character to have a very loud, outspoken, quirky mother and she was on full display here. The only character I didn’t really like was Daisy’s best friend, Frankie, who I thought was awful right from the beginning.

I enjoyed the friendship and romance between Daisy and Ollie. I thought they fit really well together. I felt like a lot of their relationship was kind of glossed over, though. In one scene they’re having their first real kiss and then in the next they’ve been ‘together’ for awhile and we didn’t get to see any of that discussion or proper dates or anything like that. The first time they say they love each other is off page, as well. I didn’t really know how serious they were or where they were at in the relationship because there were jumps in time and a lot of the development happened between scenes. I thought this could have been handled a little better, but I still shipped them and was happy where they ended up.

Overall, I enjoyed Four Christmases and a Secret. I liked the characters and the romance and the journey of self-discovery Daisy went on. It ended up being a lot more serious than I thought it would be – more Women’s Fiction than Romance – but it still worked for me. It definitely put me in the mood for some good holiday themed movies and books. I look forward to checking out more from Stoneley in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: On the Corner of Love and Hate (Hopeless Romantics #1) by Nina Bocci

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of Christina Lauren and Lauren Layne comes a delightfully sassy and sexy romance about a campaign manager who reluctantly works with the local Lothario to help revamp his image for the upcoming mayoral elections, only to discover that he’s hiding something that can turn both their lives upside down.

What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like.

When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.

Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

A perfect blend of humor and heart, On the Corner of Love and Hate is the first in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci.

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

On the Corner of Love and Hate will be available August 20, 2019. 

On the Corner of Love and Hate was a cute read. I shipped Emma and Cooper together and enjoyed the small-town setting. I felt like it tried to be too many things, though. It couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to be a Friends-to-More or Enemies-to-Lovers story. The plot also revolved around politics and an election, without actually making any type of political statement. I don’t actually mind that too much, though, because I read books to avoid politics and in the current climate it would alienate a lot of readers to come out hard on one subject or another.

Emma was supposed to be very strong and driven and while she did display those qualities, she was also very wishy-washy and literally ran away from things that she didn’t want to deal with. I feel like I have read several books with this type of character lately and so my frustration with her might have been a little stronger than it should have been because of that. I did like that she loved her small town, her family and her friends. I really liked Nick and Henry and wish we would have gotten a little more of them. It sounds like the next book will focus on a romance for Henry and I’m looking forward to that.

Overall, I enjoyed On the Corner of Love and Hate. I read this at a time when no book was keeping my attention until I tried this one and it got me out of my slump. I liked Emma and Cooper together when Emma wasn’t being frustrating about it. I wish we would’ve gotten Cooper’s POV, too, though. Though I had a few issues, I’m still looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Trust Me When I Lie by Benjamin Stevenson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eliza Dacey was murdered in cold blood.

Four years later, the world watched it unfold again on screen.

Producer Jack Quick knows how to frame a story. So says Curtis Wade, the subject of Jack’s new true crime docuseries, convicted of a young woman’s murder four years prior. In the eyes of Jack’s viewers, flimsy evidence and police bias influenced the final verdict…even though, off screen, Jack himself has his doubts.

But when the series finale is wildly successful, a retrial sees Curtis walk free. And then another victim turns up dead.

To set things right, Jack goes back to the sleepy vineyard town where it all began, bent on discovering what really happened. Because behind the many stories he tells, the truth is Jack’s last chance. He may have sprung a killer from jail, but he’s also the one that can send him back.

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

Trust Me When I Lie will be available August 13, 2019. 

Trust Me When I Lie had a really interesting premise, but it never quite lived up to it’s potential for me.

Jack was a popular true crime podcast host that got his big break investigating the trial of Curtis Wade. Curtis was convicted of killing a young woman with very little actual evidence. Jack creates a tv show chronicling the many errors of the case. He doesn’t really seem to understand there are real world implications to what his show produces and is only after telling a good story. When he comes across a piece of evidence that doesn’t fit into his narrative, he doesn’t share it. When Curtis eventually gets released from prison, Jack begins to worry that maybe he really is guilty and sets out to prove it.

I was disappointed that the tv show didn’t really play that big of part in the story. I expected more excerpts and interviews and “making of” moments. However, the story mostly takes place after the show has aired and there is very little shared about it, other than that Jack ruined people’s careers – and made others – and edited statements to his own purposes. The story mostly followed Jack bumbling around trying to figure things out and wasn’t as suspenseful or mysterious as I was hoping for. From very early on in the story I had a theory that ended up being right. There were a couple of red herrings throughout where I thought maybe my original theory was wrong, but it wasn’t. It made the “twist” really anti-climactic for me.

Overall, Trust Me When I Lie had enjoyable moments, but did not live up to my expectations. It didn’t involve the show as much as I wanted it to and the mystery held very few surprises. However, I enjoyed the dark humor and thought the characterization was really well done. I would be interested to see what Stevenson does in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars