Review: Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must reenact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

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

Would Like to Meet will be available December 3, 2019. 

I loved this book so much!! It has been awhile since I’ve found myself smiling so much at a story, even laughing out loud at parts. Would Like to Meet is funny, sweet, ridiculously cute, and just so much fun.

I knew right from the first chapter – a classic meet cute gone horribly awry – that I was going to enjoy reading this story. Though there is much more to the book then the humorous meet cute failures, they were definitely my favorite parts. But I also found Evie a likable and relatable main character. I liked her group of close friends and loved Ben and Annette, the father and daughter she befriends on her meet cute journey. Evie’s boss, Monty, and Ezra/NOB, the temperamental screenwriter, also provided a good amount of humor and tension to the story.

Any good Rom-Com fan will probably guess how the story is going to turn out long before the final chapters, but it didn’t lessen the enjoyment for me. There were a few parts here and there that I felt dragged just a bit, but these are really the only complaints I can think of.

Overall, I loved Would Like to Meet. I loved the characters and the meet cutes and the humor. I also love the cover – though if you’re like me, you’ll need to take a second look to notice that Evie is tipping over her drink, which is perfect for the story. I found this to be an impressive debut from Winters and I am very eager to see whatever she comes up with next. This is definitely a must read for lovers of rom-com.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and Watching You comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

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

The Family Upstairs will be available November 5, 2019. 

This book was excellent! Lisa Jewell’s writing is so ridiculously addictive. It did take a few chapters to hook me, but once I was in I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The gothic atmosphere of the house really added to the overall sense of dread that infused the story. Jewell does such a fantastic job of writing families full of dysfunction and secrets that are both intriguing and kind of horrifying.

I am really fascinated by cults and while this is not exactly a cult story, it has some of the same elements. A charismatic personality moves into the house and he slowly takes all control. He indoctrinates several members of the household, gets them to give him all their possessions, and imposes strict and crazy rules. I felt so sorry for the kids that had no say in what was happening and should have been protected by their parents, but weren’t.

The story is told through three points of view. Libby has just found who her birth parents are and wants to know the full story of what happened to the family she’s never known. Lucy is basically homeless with two kids and is desperately trying to find a way back to England. Henry’s is the only POV told through first person and he recounts everything that happened from when his family was wealthy and relatively normal, all the way through present day. He’s not always the most reliable of narrators, but his chapters were definitely the most compelling to read.

Overall, I loved reading The Family Upstairs. It was at turns tragic, horrifying, fascinating, and hopeful. I am so impressed with Jewell’s writing and how compulsively readable it is. My only complaints were that I found it just a little slow to start and the ending was not as dynamic as the rest of the story. However, everything else more than made up for it. I definitely recommend this one to fans of character driven mysteries.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Where Do I Begin? by Elvis Duran

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Elvis Duran, host of one of the nation’s top morning shows and the voice millions of Americans wake up to, shares his wildest stories and hardest-learned lessons all with his trademark heart, honesty, and plenty of humor. 

Elvis Duran’s nationally syndicated radio program, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, is America’s most-listened-to Top 40 morning show and one of the 10 most-listened-to programs in all of radio, heard live by nearly ten million people every morning.

But his success didn’t happen overnight. Elvis spent years navigating the wild world of radio as a DJ for hire, working (and partying) in markets around the country before taking over the morning shift at the legendary Z100 in 1996. Over the last twenty years, he has become one of New York City’s signature voices (Variety calls him “a permanent fixture of the area’s daily commutes”) thanks to his show’s exciting mix of music, new artist discoveryinterviews, gossip, and live listener interaction.

Along the way, Elvis has become known not just for his incisive interviews (and occasional feuds) with pop music’s biggest stars, but for the show’s commitment to kindness and positivity and Elvis’s own candor and openness with his audience.

Bold, funny, and totally candid, Where Do I Begin? is sure to be loved by anyone who listens to Elvis live every morning—or anyone who wants to know what really goes on behind the scenes of the pop music machine. It reads like an old friend telling a new story you’ve been dying to hear.

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

Where Do I Begin? will be available October 1, 2019. 

Every morning as I get ready for work, I listen to Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. For those that don’t know, it’s a nationally syndicated radio show – number one in it’s market – based out of of New York. It’s a show with a wide variety of contributors, ideas, and gags. Sometimes they have segments that make me roll my eyes a bit, but other times I am laughing out loud or getting choked up (in a good way). Listening to the show is the best part of my morning and I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard Elvis mention it in on the air.

I really enjoyed Where Do I Begin? It read just like having a conversation with Elvis and though I am not generally an audio book reader, I definitely want to to experience this again with Elvis narrating (at least I’m assuming he’ll narrate it? If not him, my vote is definitely Greg T.). We start out hearing about how Elvis first fell in love with radio as a child. I loved learning about how this was his passion from an early age and basically the only thing he was ever interested in doing. He even built his own little radio station in his bedroom as a kid and put on a show that reached his closest neighbors – and then it blew up when he tried to give more power to the signal.

I have to admit that I was expecting a little more scandal, though. There have been multiple times listening to the show where they start talking about something and Elvis refuses to go into details, saying something like, “you’ll have to read the book.” However, there were still stories he kind of glossed over and names he wouldn’t share and while I understand that, I was kind of disappointed in it. There was also one chapter about fame that wasn’t so much about him, but of the celebrities he’s interviewed and it felt a little out of place.

I loved pretty much every other part of the book, though. Even if it didn’t go quite as in depth as I had hoped for, I feel like I learned a lot more about Elvis and about the radio industry, in general. There was also one chapter dedicated to how people basically went crazy during the 2016 election and how he wants his show to remain a positive place for all people. He reiterated what I’ve heard him say on the show, about how we can disagree with people without completely hating them. This shouldn’t be a profound idea, but it’s something people have seemed to forget lately and I really admire that he uses his platform to help build bridges between people instead of adding to the toxic political culture of blue vs red.

Overall, I really enjoyed Where Do I Begin? It’s been one of my most anticipated books of the year and it lived up to the hype for me. I’ve been a fan of Elvis for years and reading this made me just like him more. It’s definitely a must read for listeners of his show.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact #2) by Lauren Layne

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Review from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor. 

There’s never a bad time to fall in love in the city, right? Wrong. According to the recently-widowed Claire Hayes, it’s very, verywrong. In fact, after finding out her late husband was a liar and a cheat, Claire’s convinced there’s never a good time for romantic notions. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her philandering husband, Claire sets out to redesign her entire Upper East Side brownstone and make it her own. But when she meets gruff and often-cantankerous contractor Scott Turner and realizes not all men are scumbags, Claire must decide if she’s ready to risk her heart again.

Scott needs a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and bluntly makes it clear to Claire that he only took on her house for that reason, adding that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess on his job site. But when long work days soon turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…? Scott knows he’s not one to settle down, but then why can’t he bring himself to put the finishing touches on Claire’s house and move on to the next job?

Filled with laugh-out-loud scenes that blend perfectly with the touching friendships Layne brings to life on the page, this “hugely entertaining” (USA TODAY) novel is perfect for fans of Lauren Weisberger.

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

Love on Lexington Avenue will be available September 17, 2019.

I love Lauren Layne books. When I am in the mood for a fun Romance, she has become one of my go-to’s and Love on Lexington Avenue didn’t disappoint.

I’ll admit that the first book in this series, while still good, was not one of my favorites and I was a little hesitant going into this one. However, I enjoyed this one so much more. I really liked the main couple, Claire and Scott. I shipped them right from the beginning. I loved how their bickering turned into friendship and then more. I thought that while they had a lot in common, they also balanced each other out well.

I enjoyed seeing the other characters from the first book, as well. Claire’s friends, Audrey and Naomi, whom she first met when she found out her recently deceased husband was having an affair with both of them. Naomi still isn’t my favorite character (and was mostly the reason why the first book didn’t work for me as much), but I enjoyed her much more in small doses. I’m really looking forward to reading Audrey (and Clarke’s) story next. I also really liked seeing Oliver again. He shows up a lot in this book since he’s friends with both Claire and Scott.

One thing that I do really love about this series is that there is a lot less graphic stuff than in most of Layne’s other books. I know some people see that as a negative, but I am here for it. Even though the plot of this book had a lot of discussion about the idea of casual one-night stands, which I didn’t love, it never really went into graphic description and that just makes me like this book that much more.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love on Lexington Avenue. I loved the characters and the romance and the humor. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“One hell of a suspense novel.” ⁠—Stephen King

The New York Times bestselling author of A Noise Downstairs and No Time for Goodbye returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that does for elevators what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for the beach—a heart-pounding tale in which a series of disasters paralyzes New York City with fear.

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its ribbon-cutting on Thursday.

With each diabolical twist, Linwood Barclay ratchets up the suspense, building to a shattering finale. Pulsating with tension, Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible . . . and will chill readers to the bone.

I received a copy of title tile via Edelweiss. It does not impact my review.

Elevator Pitch will be available September 17, 2019. 

Linwood Barclay is one of my favorite authors and I always look forward to his books. I’m happy to say that Elevator Pitch did not disappoint.

I thought the idea of malfunctioning elevators in a city that relies on them so heavily was really interesting and I thought Barclay did a good job of creating a really suspenseful atmosphere. I even avoided using the elevators at work while I was reading this. I thought the mystery aspect was pretty well done, too. There are multiple possible suspects and a few red herrings that had me second guessing myself and I liked that.

Barclay’s books are always pretty character driven and this was no exception. I really liked detectives Bourque and Delgado. I would really love to see more books including them. I also enjoyed Mayor Headley and his aides, Valerie, Chris, and Glover, as well as journalist Barbara and her daughter, Arla. There was also a perspective from a domestic terrorist group leader. While it was intriguing, I recently finished another book that had a similar group and I’m kind of over the whole politics angle becoming more popular in books.

Overall, I really enjoyed Elevator Pitch.  While I didn’t love the inclusion of politics and I felt the story was just a little longer than it needed to be, those were really my only issues with it. I loved the suspenseful atmosphere of the elevators and the characters. I am definitely looking forward to more from Barclay.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Last Widow (Will Trent #9) by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter brings back Will Trent and Sara Linton in this superb and timely thriller full of devious twists, disturbing secrets, and shocking surprises you won’t see coming

A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.

This book was excellent. I feel like I have been waiting forever for a new Will Trent book and it did not disappoint. In fact, I think this is my favorite book from Karin Slaughter to date.

I’ve always been a fan of Slaughter’s writing, but the way she was able to write this story with such a sense of urgency was so impressive to me. Even though there were plenty of parts that had a lot of information and background instead of action-packed sequences, that urgency was always there. It was very hard to put the book down. I loved the way Slaughter played with timelines and point of views, as well. We get third person POVs from Will, Sara, and Faith, which I expect from this series, but what was different was seeing some of the same scenes from different perspectives. I loved this! After the first few chapters, though, our main characters don’t have many scenes together, so while we still see what’s happening with all of them at the same time of day, it’s only from one perspective per scene. I also thought the frequent references to time reminded me a little of the tv show 24, which I loved.

The story focuses on the ramp up to a domestic terrorist attack. This particular sect is a white supremacist group, which is pretty timely. There are always scenes in a Slaughter book that are hard to read, but hearing the ideology of this group was so revolting. There’s a lot of people in our world today that throw out the term “nazi” at anyone they disagree with and I think it desensitizes us to when there are actually people like this that hold those type of views. This is an important topic, but it felt like there were a little more politics in this book than I generally like to read. Also, I wish Slaughter would have emphasized a little more that alt-right and alt-left groups do not represent people on the right or the left. This was really my only complaint, though.

Overall, I loved The Last Widow. I loved being back in Will Trent’s world. I love his relationship with Sara, and the other strong women in his life, Faith and Amanda. I also liked Van from the FBI and wouldn’t mind seeing more from him in the future. I loved the sense of urgency Slaughter infused into the story. I think this is my favorite book of 2019 so far and I really hope Slaughter doesn’t make us wait several more years before giving us another Will Trent book!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

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

The First Girl Child will be available August 20, 2019. 

I hardly know where to begin with this review. I’m going with a trusty list.

*The the book is set in a fantasy world within a Norse mythology framework. I will show my ignorance on the subject and admit I thought Thor was just a comic book character. But he and Loki and several others are mentioned throughout this story, though they aren’t main characters or anything.

*I found the synopsis just a little misleading. While Bayr and Alba are definitely main characters, they feel like supporting characters until the last quarter of the book. The story follows them from birth to adulthood, with much of book taking place while they are still children. I don’t want to diminish their importance, but I just expected for them to play much bigger roles. Dagmar and Ghost felt a lot more like lead characters and they aren’t even mentioned in the synopsis.

*There is some fabulous character development. Harmon takes her time telling the story and really focuses in on the characters and she did a good job of it. I definitely felt a connection to many of them. I loved sweet Bayr and tragic, tragic Dagmar.

*Though there was great characterization, I felt like it was a little at the expense of the pace. Though I was enjoying the story, I felt like it took me a lot longer to get through the book than it normally would a book of a similar size. Harmon’s writing is as beautiful as ever, but it also felt a little exhausting at times. I felt like it could have been edited down a bit more.

*I liked the slight parallel between Bayr and Moses from the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, though, it is mentioned that a leader from Saylok’s past spent some time among Christians and liked them so much he decided to make Jesus one of the gods they worship in Saylok. Which kind of defies the point of Christianity.

Overall, I enjoyed The First Girl Child. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but that turned out to be ok. Though it was a little longer and slower than it needed to be, I loved the characters a lot, especially Dagmar and Bayr. I think fans of Harmon’s other fantasy novels will really enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars