Review: The Murder House (DCI Matilda Darke #5) by Michael Wood

48889152. sx318

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

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

The Murder House will be available January 9, 2020. 

What I Liked:

-This is the fifth book in a series, but I haven’t read the preceding books. While there were lots of references to events from previous installments, I never felt lost with the characters and the main mystery worked as a standalone.

-I enjoyed the dynamic of the investigating team. There was some fun banter and I liked how close all of them were.

-Though it did take me awhile to get into the story, it did eventually pick up for me and it kept my attention.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

-Maybe I have read far too many graphic crime novels, but I really expected a lot more from the murder. The characters say over and over again how this is the worst crime scene they’ve ever seen and how horrific it was. But, it didn’t seem that bad to me? I feel like I’ve read far worse before and the characters just repeating again and again how bad the crime scene was made it seem much more like the author was trying to convince me it was bad, rather than writing it convincingly. It started me out on a bad foot with the story.

-I felt like the book was far too long. There were lots of side plots and red herrings and unneeded description. It could have been much shorter and still got all the main plot points and character development across.

-While I liked a lot of the characters, I didn’t care of Matilda. Few things she did made sense to me. I also didn’t like how she lied to her team about important things.

-I felt like there were really obvious clues in who the murderer was, which may be another reason the book felt so long to me. The big break in the case basically comes about by recognizing one of the detective’s incompetence, which also kind of annoyed me.

Overall:

Overall, The Murder House was ok, but didn’t really live up to my expectations. I expected a lot more from the premise and it left me a little disappointed. However, the character development was well done and I enjoyed reading about most of them. I probably won’t go back and read any of the other books in this series, but I’m sure fans of the series will probably enjoy this.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson

46164340

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forbidden attraction grows even more complicated when the guy Lane Jamison has crushed on for years suddenly becomes her step-brother in this sexy and gorgeously written debut novel about the lines between love, desire, and obsession.

What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?

Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend.

Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.

Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.

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

Together We Caught Fire will be available February 4, 2020

I was in the mood for a little angst and, oh boy, did I get that with Together We Caught Fire.

The story ended up being a little different than I thought it would be, based on the synopsis. There was still angst for days, but it wasn’t all romantic, love-triangle stuff. Lane is a complete mess and had issues in every single aspect of her life, mostly stemming from discovering her mother’s suicide when she was five years old. She has nightmares every night, severe trust issues, intimacy issues, family issues, depression, the list goes on. When Grey becomes her step-brother she starts hanging out with him, his girlfriend Sadie, and Sadie’s brother, Connor. Each one of them have their own myriad of issues and dysfunction and it could all be a little too much at times. However, it was one very addicting read.

It’s kind of hard to describe any of these characters as “likable”, but I was pretty invested in them. I wanted to see them work out their issues and heal and we do see a little bit of that by the time the book ends. Out of all of them, I did like Connor the best. It’s arguable that he had the most tragic backstory, but he was still the most well-adjusted, despite his issues. I liked how he was with Lane and I definitely shipped them. I had a hard time really understanding Lane’s “feelings” for Grey. He had moments where he could be sweet, but for most of the story he acted like a jerk and he had some definite anger issues. He and Lane had a few charged moments of longing glances, but I could never really get on board with the idea of them getting together. I liked them much more as step-siblings than as romantic interests.

While religion didn’t play a huge part in the story, the two ends of the spectrum were represented here. On one end was Sadie’s Fundamentalist Christian church, which her father pastors (who are, of course, the villains of the story as hateful bigots), and on the other end is Grey, the Wiccan. Lane is firmly in agnostic land, but partakes in her family’s pagan rituals. I have to say that even though these aren’t huge points in the story, it kind of brought my overall reading experience down. It always annoys me when the Christians are portrayed so poorly (even if they are fundamentalists and not your average Christian church) and I also was a little uncomfortable with the whole paganism thing. There’s even a point in the story where Lane’s father sits her down to talk to her about her relationship with Connor because he’s so afraid he’s going to “convert” her and then he’s overjoyed to find out Connor is an atheist. I mean, honestly, my main recurring thought while reading this whole book was, “These people need Jesus.” I did like, however, how it portrayed that no matter what your faith is, we all have our issues and brokenness we have to work through.

Overall, I did enjoy Together We Caught Fire. I don’t think it would be for everyone, but if you think you can handle the angst, buckle up and clear your schedule for this addictive debut. Even though the writing was a little more flowery and used a lot more imagery than I generally care for, it is super addictive and I could hardly put the book down. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Gibson does next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Other People by C.J. Tudor

45706883

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A gripping new thriller about a man’s quest for the daughter no one else believes is still alive, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man and The Hiding Place.

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter.

Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.

His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

If you have lost a loved one, The Other People want to help. Because they know what loss is like. They know what pain is like. They know what death is like.

There’s just one problem . . . they want other people to know it too.

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

The Other People will be available January 28, 2020.

I think maybe it’s time for me to just give up and admit that this author’s books are not for me. C.J. Tudor is a talented writer and that makes me want to keep giving her a try, but like the books preceding it, The Other People, left me a little bored and underwhelmed.

The story had a lot going for it: murder, kidnapping, mysterious characters, secretive pasts, and a shadowy organization from the dark web. It really should have been a lot more intriguing than it ended up being. I figured out how the characters were related long before they were revealed. Gabe’s big secret past and the horrible thing he did ended up being not nearly as shocking as I was expecting. The supernatural elements didn’t really make a lot of sense to me and left me a little bit annoyed. And I thought The Other People organization should have been a little further explored.

Overall, The Other People, was ok, but left me pretty underwhelmed. I do like Tudor’s writing style and I liked the main character, Gabe, for the most part. However, the pace was pretty slow, the twists didn’t surprise me, I didn’t think the supernatural element added much to the story, and I found myself pretty bored. I have read several positive reviews for this book, though, so it might just be me. I don’t think I’ll be checking out any more books from this author in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

43299266. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket—an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: you track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then, Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

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

The Wives will be available December 30, 2019. 

Tarryn Fisher is a very popular author with many of the bloggers I follow. Despite the overwhelming hype, this is only the second book I’ve read by her. While I can’t dispute that she is a good writer, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that her books just aren’t for me.

I find the idea of voluntary polygamy kind of fascinating. I would sometimes watch shows like Sister Wives and Big Love and never be able to understand why these women would agree to such an arrangement. I was hoping for some more insight into the whole thing, but the only answer the main character, Thursday, really gives is that she loves Seth and polygamy is the only way to be with him. I suppose worse things have been done in the name of love. We also don’t really get to see any of the sister wives dynamic I was hoping for since they are not supposed to interact.

The story mostly focuses on how Thursday has become unhappy with her one day a week arrangement. She decides to investigate the other wives behind Seth’s back. For about the first half of the book we just see Thursday being lonely and paranoid and obsessively investigating. I thought this part of the story drug out for way too long and it felt like just another domestic suspense story of a crazy woman and a lying man. It did start to shift into something else, though, and became more of a psychological suspense. Fisher did do a good job of making me question what was real and what was delusion, but at the end of the day, it left me pretty underwhelmed.

Overall, The Wives was just ok for me. Other than the plural marriage angle, there wasn’t much to set it apart from the same type of story I’ve read countless times before. While the book wasn’t really for me, I have seen many other favorable reviews for it and I’m sure Fisher’s fans will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Map from Here to There (The Start of Me and You #2) by Emery Lord

42972032

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

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

The Map from Here to There will be available January 7, 2020. 

I noticed that I shelved The Map from Here to There as “To-Read” on Goodreads back in September 2017. I was lucky enough to get an ARC and read this in September 2019. That is a long time to anticipate the book and hype it up. I wish I could say it met my very high expectations, but, unfortunately, it did not. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of enjoyable moments. One of the things I loved about The Start of Me and You were the strong friendships and they were still on display here. Yes, there was some drama and fights, but they worked through them and were always there for each other. There were several funny, bantery moments that I enjoyed, as well. I also liked that Paige’s parents were a strong presence in the book.

There was a lot in this book that didn’t work for me, though. Paige had a lot of issues to work through in the first book and by the end she was starting to figure it out. Instead of her continuing to progress, she had a major relapse back into anxiety and it kind of made all the lessons learned in the first book obsolete. I did find the anxiety stuff relatable, but I would have rather seen Paige continue to grow, instead of spending the majority of yet another book as a mess (and still not communicating it) and then finally growing in the final couple chapters.

Some of the problems I had with this book are probably more my fault than the books, though. I wanted a cute book of Max and Paige being adorable together. Yes, I knew there would have to be some strife, but I thought (hoped) it would be a small part of the plot. Instead, we got very few scenes with them together, unless they were fighting. Paige treated him so, so unfairly and it drove me crazy. He was patient and understanding for awhile, but eventually reached a breaking point where he didn’t handle things well. There is a new character introduced – Paige’s co-worker at the movie theater – that Paige hung out with and talked to like she did Max in the first book. He was also there to stir some jealousy and insecurity in Max. And once that role was played out, we don’t really hear any more about him. Which annoyed me because even though I didn’t like his purpose in the story, he was sweet and funny and I liked him. But back to my original point, the story was much more about the anxiety about growing up and making hard decisions and dealing with change. And this made me feel a little too old for the story. As a cynical adult who has never had a job that utilized her college degree, nor is no longer friends with any of the people she was close to in high school and college, these major crises the characters faced felt a little trivial. I do remember being in high school and thinking these decisions were life and death, so I get it, but I’m just so far past that, that it was kind of hard to take so seriously. I also am not a fan of open-ended conclusions. The biggest focus of the book is where Paige will go to college and the story ends without a definitive answer and that kind of pissed me off.

Another thing that bugged me is that Tess and Ryan aren’t together. I felt it was very heavily implied in the first book that they would get together. I thought her whole arc in the story was how she was all closed off due to her abandonment issues with her parents, but Ryan slowly won her over. Instead, the author decided to fix the lack of LGBT+ diversity from the first book by giving Tessa a girlfriend instead. Not only did I not even get a hint of this in the first book, but it basically skips over the whole coming out part of the book by referencing how it happened in the summer, conveniently between the end of book one and start of book two. Don’t misunderstand, I support a more diverse cast of characters, but it annoyed me to see Tessa with anyone but Ryan.

Overall, The Map from Here to There was just ok for me. I enjoyed parts of it, but had a lot of issues with it, as well. I liked the first book much more, but I think people in the actual target audience age range will appreciate this book much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Reputation by Sara Shepard

45735323

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this fast-paced new novel from Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars, a tight-knit college town scrambles for answers when an e-mail hack reveals life-changing secrets and scandals.

Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people’s e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning’s handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit’s sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn’t right about the night Greg was killed, and she’s determined to find the truth. What she doesn’t expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.

Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It’s a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel.

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

Reputation will be available December 3, 2019. 

When it comes to reading a Sara Shepard book, I definitely expect some soapy, crazy drama and Reputation did not disappoint on that front.

The story follows the POVs of 5 women: Kit, Willa, Raina, Laura, and Lynn. It may sound like a lot of characters to keep track of, but I think Shepard did a really good job with it. Often times with this many characters I find I only like a couple and get frustrated when the POVs switch away from them, but I didn’t have that problem here. While I didn’t necessarily like all of these women, I enjoyed watching some of the petty drama play out. When that started to get a little much, it was balanced out with the development of the mystery. While I didn’t find the reveal of Greg’s killer to be all that surprising, there were definitely a good amount of red herrings that kept me guessing.

While the story did start out pretty strong for me, it seemed to lose steam a bit for awhile in the middle. Parts of it dragged on for a little longer than necessary and once some of the red herrings were revealed to be just that, I started to lose a little bit of interest in some of the storylines. I was also hoping for some kind of scandalous twist in the end, but it ends kind of quietly with basically everyone getting their version of happily-ever-after. It also tacked on some #MeToo lessons with a pretty heavy hand towards the end that I thought could have been incorporated a little more organically than it was.

Overall, I enjoyed Reputation. I have been in a bit of a book rut lately and this was the first one in awhile that I looked forward to picking up again every time I had to put it down. Though it did feel a little long in parts and it didn’t end as dynamically as I hoped, I enjoyed the soapy drama and I also liked how the mystery played out. I look forward to reading more from Shepard in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Meet Me on Love Lane (Hopeless Romantics #2) by Nina Bocci

43822747. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of On the Corner of Love and Hate comes a romantic comedy about a woman who grudgingly returns home to small-town Pennsylvania, only to find herself falling in love—not only with the town, but with two of its citizens.

Charlotte Bishop is out of options in New York City. Fired, broke, and blacklisted by her former boss, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Hope Lake, PA to lick her wounds. Although she’s expecting to find a miserable place with nothing to do, she is pleasantly surprised to discover it is bustling and thriving.

She’s only supposed to be in Hope Lake temporarily until she can earn enough money to move back to New York. She’s not supposed to reconnect with her childhood friends or her beloved grandmother. She’s not supposed to find her dream job running the local florist shop. And she’s definitely not supposed to fall for not one but two of Hope Lake’s golden boys: one the beloved high school English teacher, the other the charming town doctor.

With a heart torn between two men and two cities, what’s a girl to do?

A perfect blend of humor and heart, Meet Me on Love Lane is the second in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci that is sure to charm fans of Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.

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

Meet Me on Love Lane will be available December 10, 2019. 

What I Liked

-I’m obsessed with that cover! I think it just screams Fall, which is my favorite season. I’m just going to ignore the fact that this book mostly takes place in the Summer and not the Fall, though…

-I love the small town setting. I wish Hope Lake was real because I would totally move there. I loved how close the residents are and how they support each other.

-I liked seeing the characters from the the first book again. We get to know Henry and Nick a little better in this installment and I am looking forward to Nick’s story next.

-I liked Charlotte’s relationship with her father and grandmother. Her grandmother was kind of crazy and unrealistic, but she brought a lot of comic relief that I enjoyed.

What Didn’t Work For Me

-While I liked Henry and Charlotte, I never really felt their chemistry. We were supposed to rely on their childhood friendship to support their strong feelings in the present, but we only get one scene with them as children, which Charlotte doesn’t even remember, and they haven’t seen each other in twenty years. It just wasn’t enough for me to buy it. I could’ve used more development.

-After Charlotte was made to move away, she completely blocked out everything from her childhood. Honestly, this was a little hard to believe. I felt like the really traumatic part of her life was living alone with her mother in New York and blocking out those memories would have made more sense.

-There was a lot of repetition in the writing. Take a shot every time Charlotte says “You’re not wrong” and you will quickly become too drunk to keep reading.

-The whole subplot with almost dating Dr. Max didn’t really accomplish anything. It was barely a love triangle, which isn’t my favorite romantic trope anyways, and it just didn’t work for me.

Overall

Overall, Love Me on Love Lane was just ok for me. I did like the characters and loved the small town setting. However, the pacing felt very slow, I was never really sold on the romance, and most of the big plot points didn’t work for me. That said, I still plan on reading the next book in the series because I like Nick.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars