Review: Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles’ scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she’s dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.

Giving them each her signature “pants speech”–her pants aren’t coming off unless she has a real connection with someone–she desperately wants to push past the awkward small-talk phase to find true love, but finding “the one” is starting to feel impossible. That is, until she meets Luke, who is sophisticated, funny, and not to mention, hot. Alison finds herself falling for Luke harder than any guy she’s dated and finally letting her walls down, but will he stick around or move on to his next match?

Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison all the way to the end.

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

Match Made in Manhattan will be available January 23, 2018. 

A fun and quirky story full of the ups and downs of online dating. Match Made in Manhattan was an entertaining and often addicting read.

The story follows Allison, a newly single twenty-something New Yorker, over the course of a year as she gives online dating a try. Though I thought she sometimes came across a little shallow, I did find her to be a likable character. She was really open to new things and treated everyone kindly. I also liked her “pants speech.” The plot of the book could have easily transitioned into erotica, but Allison’s belief that physical intimacy should be saved for committed relationships was one I appreciated, even though it was a deal breaker for some of the guys she met on Match.

The book almost read as an anthology. The chapters were divided by who Allison’s date was. Depending on the length of the relationship some chapters were very short and some were very long (and some of the men got more than one chapter). I did have a bit of trouble keeping some of the guys straight if Allison referenced them later, but for the most part I thought this format worked.

There are a few reasons why I can’t quite give this book 4 stars, though. As I mentioned above, it often read more of an anthology than a standard Contemporary and I felt there was just something missing to tie everything together. But Stephanie, THE DATING ties everything together! Well, yes, but other than an on-going storyline with Allison’s job that lasted the length of the novel, almost everything else in the chapters felt pretty self-contained. It felt just a little bit choppy to me at times and I would’ve liked to have seen another side plot or two to run throughout the story. Also, one of my pet peeves is when things mentioned in the synopsis are not included in the book (though I know this is not the author’s fault) and I do not recall there every being a date in a HAZMAT suit.

Overall, I did really enjoy reading Match Made in Manhattan. The writing was humorous and I found myself laughing often. I also found the writing to often be addictive and there were many parts where I did not want to put it down. Though I’ve never online dated myself, I think this is definitely a must read for anyone who has. I’m looking forward to reading more from Stauffer in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

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Review: Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1) by Mira Grant

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Several years ago there was a popular mockumentary on tv about mermaids. They weren’t The Little Mermaid type of mermaids, either. And there were people who didn’t understand that it wasn’t a real documentary and got really upset over it. When I heard of this book, it reminded me of that tv show and I knew I wanted to read it. This is not the kind of book I normally read and while there were many parts I really enjoyed, there were many I didn’t care for either. My thoughts are kind of all over the place on this book and my review will be, as well.

Science, Science Everywhere! I knew from reviews I read before starting this book that there was going to be a good amount of science involved. This isn’t something I generally appreciate in novels, but I thought I could skim through those parts if I needed to. The thing is, though, that the majority of characters were scientists and scientific thoughts was just part of their POV. There is no getting away from the science in this book. I was thankful I read this on an e-reader that I could easily look things up, as terms were thrown around without any explanation. Even though I didn’t exactly like this part of the book, I thought it was incorporated in a way that made sense and there wasn’t a lot of over the top description.

It was super preachy on environmental issues. If you’re someone who use the terms “Climate Alarmists” or “tree-huggers”, this book might be a little too much for you. It’s kind of one long, never-ending lecture on how humans are bad and ruin the planet. However, the book is about scientists, so you should expect those kinds of conversations.

Lots of great character development, but not very likable characters. The book bounces around many different POVs. While I don’t always like that technique, I thought it worked really well here. We even get the POV of the mermaids a few times, which I really enjoyed. I felt like we got a good deal of character development from all the POVs we got and even though that made the book a little long, it was worth it. Unfortunately, I found almost all of the characters pretty unlikable. And the ones I did like are the ones I probably shouldn’t have (i.e. Michi and Jacques. They were crazy and awful, but fun to read).

There is gore, but not as much as I expected. For being a horror novel, I expected a lot more death and gore than what was involved. There was a lot more time spent on scientific explanations than on horror. There were some really well-written scenes of suspense and fear, but for the most part I didn’t really feel the urgency for survival from the characters that I wanted. While there were many deaths, there were very few that actually made an impact.

Overall, I liked Into the Drowning Deep, but not as much as I was hoping to. The chapters were long and the pace was pretty slow most of the time. I felt like I spent all of my free time reading and it still took me several days more to finish it than I was expecting. I felt like the character development and the moments of suspense were enough to save it from the slower paced science information for the most part, but then I found the ending really anticlimactic. This book is listed as #1 in a series, but I’m not sure if there will be more books coming or just because there was a prequel novella. I do plan on reading the novella and I might consider reading a sequel if there is one. If you’re someone who like a little horror and a lot of science, this book might be for you.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Bargaining with the Boss (It Happened One Night #1) by Jennifer Shirk

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Kinsley just wanted to have some fun for a change. Then she wakes up in a stranger’s bed, with her bridesmaid dress on backward and a hazy memory of what happened at her friend’s wedding. With a quick escape, she can get back to her predictable life. But then she meets her new boss—the same guy she’d woken up next to—and seeing him with a clear head doesn’t make him any less attractive.

Mixing business with pleasure has never been Damon’s style, and easily avoided, but the hotel he just bought comes with an unexpected perk—its manager. “Sensible” Kinsley today is as alluring as “impulsive” Kinsley was the night before, and she talks him into a deal. If she can turn around the hotel by the end of summer, he won’t tear it down to put up more profitable condominiums.

Their plan is simple…until falling for each other becomes more than they bargained for.

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

Bargaining with the Boss will be available 1/15/18. 

Whenever I’m in the mood for a sweet romance I know that Jennifer Shirk will deliver. I’ve enjoyed several of her books and Bargaining with the Boss is no exception.

I was a little nervous about this one at first based on the synopsis. If you are familiar with my reviews at all, you know that I don’t like the graphic stuff in my romance books and I was a little afraid this one would have more content than Shirk’s previous books. Thankfully, not everything is what it seems. Romance fans who prefer sweet and swoony to hot and heavy will definitely appreciate this one.

I liked both Kinsley and Damon. I liked how their working relationship was highlighted, along with the romance. I thought they worked really well together and I liked to see them become friends first instead of jumping straight into a relationship. I also liked Kinsley’s brother, Wade, and wish we would’ve got a little more of him.

Overall, I enjoyed Bargaining with the Boss. I liked how sweet the romance was, the characters, and the humor. The only thing I didn’t really like was that I thought the pace was a little on the slower side. It took me a little while to get into the story because I didn’t feel like there was much happening. I’m looking forward to reading more from Shirk.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Shoot the Moon (Seeking Mansfield #2) by Kate Watson

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Despite what his brother—and sponsor—thinks, nineteen year-old Tate Bertram isn’t an addict. He has the 30-day chip to prove it. But when his father learns Tate’s been running an illegal card room out of a friend’s dorm to pay off old gambling debts, Tate is cut off. With his family no longer talking to him, his aunt Nora offers him a chance to intern for her political campaign. Juggling school with the intense internship, Tate finds himself buying scratch-off lottery tickets to take the edge off.

Tate is surprised to find the beautiful and calculating Alex Wolf—his first crush and the girl who taught him how to gamble—volunteering with Nora’s campaign, too. Soon, Tate is more drawn to Alex than ever. Her mind games stick in his head, but her vulnerable, softer side gets into his heart. But as tensions rise along the campaign trail, Tate is forced to question whether he’s really addiction-free, after all.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS meets ROUNDERS in this high stakes tale of the cost of winning and the price of redemption.

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

Shoot the Moon will be available February 6, 2018. 

Last year I read and loved the first book in this series, Seeking Mansfield, and I was so excited to find out there was a sequel. While Shoot the Moon was not quite the light and fluffy read I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it.

This books focuses on Tate, Oliver’s older brother. I loved how witty and sarcastic he was. He could also be kind of awful, but in a fun way. I loved watching his journey throughout the book. He had many ups and downs and by the end I felt like he was really heading in the right direction. I initially was excited in seeing Oliver and Finley again, but I felt disappointed in what we got from them. I don’t consider this a spoiler because we find out in the very first chapter (but skip ahead if you don’t want to be spoiled at all!) that Oliver and Finley have broken up! And then there’s a brief thing with Tate and Finley that had been hinted at in the previous book, but actually goes further. There’s a little more back and forth with Oliver and Finley, but they didn’t really play a big part in the overall story of this one.

One character I really didn’t care for at all was Tate’s new love interest, Alex. Though we know how insecure she really is, it still really frustrated me when she lashed out at Tate. She came across as very unkind and manipulative and I just couldn’t like her at all, though she did get a little better by the end of the book. Still, I do not think that she and Tate were a good match. I felt like if they wanted to be together they still had so much growing up to do and they weren’t there by the end of the book. For awhile I thought it was looking like Tate would end the book single and I was actually pretty excited about that, but I don’t think it’s a surprise to say that that didn’t happen.

There were a lot of poker terms included in this. There is a glossary of terms in the back of the book which I perused before I started reading, but I find it too difficult to go back and forth with e-books so I was often lost when there were passages with lots of poker terms. While I appreciate the authenticity Watson was going for in including them, I felt like it could have been edited down a lot. It’s one of those instances where it felt more like the author wanted to show how much research she had done, then it being really relevant to the progression of the story. There is also a lot of politics in the story. I thought it was a little heavy handed at times. Depending on your particular political bent you will either really enjoy it or be kind of annoyed by it.

Overall, while Shoot the Moon was not the follow-up to Seeking Mansfield I expected, I still enjoyed it. I really loved Tate. Even when the story lost my interest occasionally, Tate still made me want to keep reading. Though this isn’t the light read that the first book was, I would still definitely recommend it to fans of Seeking Mansfield. I am looking forward to reading more from Kate Watson.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Always You (Bachelor Brotherhood #3) by Denise Grover Swank

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Matt Osborne had always planned to get married and have a family. But at thirty-four, he’s no closer to his goal, so he’s decided to embrace his role as the remaining member of the Bachelor Brotherhood. He’s only loved one woman-his college sweetheart-but she never shared his dream of a family, preferring to focus on her career and maybe get married someday. With neither budged on their decisions, they agreed it was best to part ways. Now nearly twelve years later, Matt is stunned when Anna shows up at his nephew’s soccer practice-with her five-year-old son in tow.

Single mother Anna Field has returned home to care for her widowed and ill father. She never thought she’d run into Matt during the six months she’s there, but now he’s the coach of her son’s soccer team. She’d move Toby to a different team, but his new best friend happens to be Matt’s nephew, Ethan. As Anna and Matt spend more time together, the realize that their attraction-and love-are still there, just waiting for a spark to reignite. And once it’s lit, Matt has no plans to let her go again.

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

Always You will be available November 28, 2017.

I read the first book in this series, Only You, not too long ago and really enjoyed it. It was my first Denise Grover Swank book and her writing is a mix of romance, humor, and family and I knew I had to read more from her.

Always You follows the last man standing from the Bachelor Brotherhood, an agreement Matt and his two best friends made to give up on relationships after they all had terrible breakups. His two friends have found love and Matt has resigned himself to being single. He’s always wanted a family and is happy to have his 5 year old nephew, Ethan, living with him while his sister attends medical school out of state. He’s coaching Ethan’s soccer team when he finds out Ethan’s new best friend is the son of his old college girlfriend, Anna. The girlfriend who turned down his marriage proposal twelve years ago because she didn’t want to get married or have kids.

As you can imagine, Ethan and Anna reconcile. It took me a little while to get on board with their romance. I love a good Second Chance Romance story, but I felt like things happened just a little too easily. Matt had spent more than a decade being bitter about how Anna left and he completely thaws after just a couple of interactions. Now, I am all for forgiveness. And I can really appreciate that he realizes Anna wasn’t the only one to blame in their breakup, but it didn’t feel realistic for them to just pick up where they left off like they did. That said, I did eventually get on board and I liked them together. I also really liked the new family unit they made up with Ethan and Anna’s son, Toby. They were all so cute together and Matt was so, so sweet with the boys. I wasn’t sure about having Ethan and Toby be such a big part of the story at the beginning (I’m not a kid person, sorry), but they eventually won me over, as well.

One thing that really bugged me, though, was Anna’s issues with her ex-husband, Phillip. There were a lot of legal issues that needed to be worked out and for most of the book she was just resigned to not doing anything about it. She was a pretty strong, smart, and independent character in so many aspects, but she was such a doormat when it came to Phillip and I just didn’t understand it. She does eventually seek some help (with a fun cameo from one of the author’s previous series), though.

Overall, I enjoyed Always You. Matt is definitely one of the sweetest male leads I have read and I wish he was real. While it did take me a little bit to get into the romance and to like the kids, I did eventually get on board with all of it. There were several humorous parts, including a scene in Chuck E. Cheese that made me laugh out loud. I definitely plan on reading more books from Denise Grover Swank.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

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

The Chalk Man will be available January 9, 2018

For me, The Chalk Man, is a perfect example of how hype can ruin your reading experience. I have seen several absolutely glowing reviews of this book and I was prepared for it to be one of my new favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, it fell far short of my expectations.

Let’s start with what I did like. I really like Tudor’s writing style. This is the author’s debut novel and her writing already feels distinctive. I also am a big fan of multiple timelines and I thought it was done pretty well here.

The story was told in Eddie’s 1st person POV and I wish I could say that gave me a connection to him, but it didn’t. I never really cared that much about him. He was basically the only character in the book that had much character development and it just didn’t really do it for me. I didn’t care about his childhood friends in either timeline or his odd relationship with his lodger, Chloe.

Even though I liked the writing, I felt bored a great deal of the time. Things are revealed very, very slowly and don’t pick up until close to the end. There is a nice little twist at the end, but I felt that there were so many clues dropped into the backstory to make sure the twist made sense that it did not even come as a big surprise. I also figured out the resolution to the main mystery awhile before it was revealed.

Overall, The Chalk Man was not a bad book, but it definitely fell short of the hype for me. The slow pace, characters I didn’t really care about, and a twist with very little pay-off left me pretty disappointed. However, the author’s writing style is pretty much what made this book for me and I know I will be reading more from her in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe–a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

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

Blue Ridge Sunrise will be available 11/7/17. 

I can’t think of a book that I have gone back and forth so much on as I did this book. For awhile I was really loving it. Then I was really annoyed at a turn of events. Then I loved it again. Then I was annoyed again. Then it picked up a little bit again at the end.

I was immediately drawn in to Zoe and Cruz and their second-chance romance storyline. As with most of Hunter’s leading ladies, I found Zoe kind of hard to like, but she did grow throughout the story. I, of course, loved Cruz. I also liked Zoe’s brother, Brady, and her best friend, Hope (I’m anticipating them to be lead characters in a future book in this series). The second part of the book is a flash back to when Zoe and Cruz started dating. I’m a big fan of multiple timeline storytelling and I loved watching those two get together.

As I mentioned above, after loving the book for awhile, something happened that really annoyed me. This is just personal preference, but I really, really dislike any romance trope that involves babies/kids. It just brings my whole enjoyment of a book way down. Another thing that I really dislike in books is when one small miscommunication is the main source of conflict and just one honest conversation would clear everything up. It drives me crazy to read a whole book like that.

Thankfully, the miscommunication was cleared up much more quickly than I anticipated. I was able to get back on the Cruz and Zoe ship and enjoy myself again. I liked watching them grow closer as they worked together to get the peach market up and running. However, Zoe’s old boyfriend Kyle is still not entirely out of the picture. Zoe decides to do something so annoyingly frustrating to remedy that and I found my enjoyment disappearing again. Things did work out in the end, though, with a nice lesson in faith tacked on.

Overall, Blue Ridge Sunrise was just a little uneven for me. While I did really enjoy Zoe and Cruz’s relationship, some romance tropes that I don’t really like were employed and kind of dampened my experience. I know that some people really love those type of storylines though, so I can see many readers eating the whole thing up with a smile. I also thought that for being Christian Fiction it was really light on the Christian. Again, not something that will bother everybody. This wasn’t my favorite Denise Hunter book, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I liked it enough that I want to continue the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars