Review: The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Ten years ago, Rachael West chose not to move to Sydney with high-school sweetheart Matthew. Instead she stayed on the family wheat farm, caring for her seriously ill mother and letting go of her dreams. Now, Matthew is marrying someone else. And Rachael is invited to the wedding, a lavish affair in Paris, courtesy of the flamboyant family of Matthew’s fiancée – a once-in-a-lifetime celebration at someone else’s expense in Europe’s most romantic city.

She is utterly unprepared for what the week brings. Friendships will be upended, secrets will be revealed – and on the eve of the wedding, Rachael is faced with an impossible dilemma: should she give up on the promise of love, or destroy another woman’s life for a chance at happiness?

If you enjoy reading Rachael Treasure and Rachael Johns, you’ll fall in love with this deliciously poignant story about family and friends, and love lost and found.

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

The Paris Wedding will be available June 12, 2018. 

The Paris Wedding was the perfect weekend read. Full of family, love, and self-discovery, I never wanted to put this one down.

Rachael once had plans to go away to school with her boyfriend, Matthew, but when her mother was diagnosed with a rare form of MS, she decided to stay and take care of her. Now that her mother has passed away and she’s feeling adrift, she finds herself longing for Matthew and the future they were supposed to have. Then she receives the invitation to his wedding. The invitation includes a full week of events in Paris, all expenses paid, for her and a guest. She and her best friend, Sammy, decide to go so she can finally have the closure with Matthew she needs to finally move on. However, Matthew doesn’t seem entirely happy with how his life has turned out or about getting married and Rachel begins to wonder if there’s hope for that missed future after all.

To muddy the waters even further, Rachel begins to spend much of her time in Paris with photojournalist Antonio, who is photographing the week’s events as a favor to the bride. There is a slight love triangle, which I don’t usually appreciate, but I didn’t find myself minding it here. It wasn’t actually a huge part of the plot or the main source of drama. That said, I was totally team Antonio. Though he’s very opinionated and can come off a little pretentious and judgmental, he challenged Rachael in a way I think she needed. He was definitely one of my favorite characters in the book.

I really enjoyed the Paris setting, too. While I would be perfectly happy to never leave my apartment, this book definitely had me wanting to go to Paris. I enjoyed the description of not just the scenery, but how the city made Rachael feel. I liked that she learned a lot about herself while she was there, both good and bad. I also liked that she wasn’t transformed by that week alone. It was really just the start of her journey, not the whole story.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Paris Wedding. I liked the characters, the setting, the family dynamics, and the message of self-discovery. There is some cheating in this book, which always brings a book down for me, but it wasn’t really romanticized or the central part of the story. That and a few things being a little too predictable were the only real complaints I have about this book. This is my first book by Charlotte Nash and I know I’m looking forward to reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A thrilling, sexy coming-of-age story exploring toxic love, ruthless ambition, and shocking betrayal, Tell Me Lies is about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, Tell Me Lies follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. Deep down, Lucy knows she has to acknowledge the truth about Stephen. But before she can free herself from this addicting entanglement, she must confront and heal her relationship with her mother—or risk losing herself in a delusion about what it truly means to love.

With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go, even when you know you should.

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

Tell Me Lies will be available June 12, 2018.

Tell Me Lies is an addicting tale of a toxic relationship and the dysfunctional people involved in it.

I really liked that the story was told in alternating 1st person POV. It helped keep a good pace throughout the story and I really feel like I got to know both Lucy and Stephen. They were both awful people (though Lucy was more troubled than truly awful), but I found myself unable to put the book down because I wanted to see what happened with them next. There was one plotline that I didn’t really feel fit with the rest of the story, though. It’s something that affected both Lucy and Stephen’s youth that Lucy figures out at the end of the book kind of randomly and then nothing happens with. I thought it could have just been something from Stephen’s past without having to relate to Lucy at all and would have been a little cleaner.

Stephen was a straight up sociopath. He was manipulative and uncaring about anything but his own wants and needs. He had a total lack of empathy for others. I think what I appreciated most about this story is that he wasn’t some serial killer or something. It felt like a very real, eye-opening picture of what an average person with an antisocial personality disorder is like and how they can so casually hurt and betray the people who care about them without a bit of guilt.

Though I was invested in Lucy’s story, she was hard for me to like. I couldn’t really relate to her. Though she did witness something kind of traumatizing as a young teenager and then never discussed it with anyone for a long time, I didn’t feel like it really justified her behavior. From the outside is was also very easy to see how toxic her relationship with Stephen was and how easy it seemed to me to just remove herself from the situation, so I felt frustrated with her, even though I know things are never that simple when it’s actually happening to you.

Overall, I found Tell Me Lies to be very addictive. The dual 1st person POVs were very well done and Stephen’s portrayal as a sociopath felt realistic and informative. I think this would definitely be a good book to read if you or someone you know has been in a toxic relationship. I look forward to reading more from Lovering in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Nearlyweds by Beth Kendrick

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Everyone says the first year of marriage is the hardest . . . but what would you do if you found out that you were never really married in the first place?

In this irresistible romantic comedy from award-winning author Beth Kendrick, three wildly different women form an unlikely friendship as they try to decide whether they’d do it all again.

They’ve had the white dresses and the fancy receptions. But now that the honeymoon’s over, Stella, Casey, and Erin have each had to face some hard truths about the men they’ve married and the lives they’ve chosen. So when the news breaks that the pastor who presided over their weddings failed to file a few critical pieces of paper, none of these newlyweds are rushing down to the courthouse to legalize their vows. Instead, the brides share their hopes, disappointments, and secrets while grappling with that pivotal question: Should they stay or should they go?

I loved this book! It was made into a Hallmark movie several years ago that I liked and I’ve wanted to read the book ever since I realized it was written by Beth Kendrick, who has written several other books I’ve really enjoyed. While I don’t remember enough about the movie to say how similar it actually was to the book, I think it’s safe to say that the book was even better than the movie.

The book is told through the POVs of Stella, Casey, and Erin. These young women have all recently been married over the same weekend, but maybe they shouldn’t have been. Stella wants nothing more than to be a mom, but finds out on her wedding night to her much older husband that that isn’t going to be possible. Casey had to all but drag her groom to the wedding. And Erin’s mother-in-law just might be trying to kill her (with peanuts). When they find out that they’re not legally married, instead of rectifying the mistake immediately, they begin to wonder if they really want to be married.

The girls were all hard to like sometimes, but I was still rooting for them. At various times I wanted them each to get re-married and to remain single. There were really cute and really frustrating moments that each had with their significant others. Some of the funniest (and most frustrating) were with Erin, David, and David’s mother. David’s mother, Renee, is one of the most overbearing Mother-in-laws I’ve ever read about and it was just ridiculous to see how easily she manipulated her son. In the end, not all the women get the happily-ever-after you expect, but I really liked how each of their stories went. I would have even liked an epilogue to see how everything was going a year down the road.

Overall, I really enjoyed Nearlyweds. It was cute and addictive and I enjoyed every moment of it. This book reminded me how much I enjoy Beth Kendrick books and I’m going to look into reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

I always look forward to new books by Kasie West. They just make me happy and Listen to Your Heart was no exception.

I liked all the characters in this. I found Kate funny and relatable. I loved her and Alana’s friendship. I liked Kate’s relationship with her family, especially her cousin Liza. Her home situation was a little unusual and I wish it would have been a little more explored than it was, though. I felt like there was a lot of potential there that wasn’t really explored, but I did like what we got to see of it. I really liked Diego and even Frank grew on me as the story went on.

I wasn’t sure what I would think of the podcast plotline, since I don’t generally care about podcasts. However, I thought it was really interesting. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of information, but I felt like I got a good idea of how producing one would work. I wish there were cool classes like that when I was in high school. (Though, I don’t think podcasts were a thing when I was in high school. Dial-up internet was what everyone had back then – if you were lucky enough to have the internet at home at all. I know, I’m ancient.) I liked how it brought Kate out of her shell a bit and gave her more confidence.

As with every Kasie West book, I thought the romance was adorable. It was definitely a slow burn and it made the end result just that much sweeter. I wish there wasn’t so much miscommunication between the characters, but there were still a lot of cute moments, so I can forgive it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Listen to Your Heart. I liked the character and the relationships and the romance. It was a fast read that I finished in a day. I definitely recommend to fans of Kasie West and Contemporary YA.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“Jar of Hearts grabs you by the throat! The perfect blend of riveting characters, chilling details, and gasping twists in this standout thriller will keep you frantically reading until the explosive end.” – Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Right Behind You

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

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

Jar of Hearts will be available June 12, 2018. 

Wow. I hardly know where to even begin with this. Jar of Hearts is the kind of book that you’re almost afraid to say you enjoyed because of how dark and twisted it is. But it’s one of the best books I’ve read in awhile.

Jar of Hearts is told in 5 parts, each associated with the 5 stages of grief, and in alternate POVs of Geo and Kaiser. I really enjoyed both perspectives. The story is told both in present and flashback and I loved how things were revealed and how you’re never sure if you’re getting the whole story (spoiler alert: you usually aren’t). The writing was smart and surprising. There weren’t any gasp-worthy twists, but there were plenty of smaller ones that I definitely didn’t see coming. I love when a book can surprise me like this one did.

Despite being deeply flawed characters, I liked both Geo and Kaiser. I liked how their relationship evolved, though I did feel pretty bad for teenage Kaiser. I found Geo pretty compelling. She did whatever she had to do to survive in any situation, even when that meant doing some terrible things. I would definitely consider her an anti-hero.

I really don’t want to say too much about the plot, for fear of giving anything away. I will say that there are several scenes that were pretty uncomfortable to read. If you’re easily triggered, you should probably avoid this one. If you can handle those type of scenes, though, the writing is intense and addictive and it sucked me in right from the beginning.

Overall, I really liked Jar of Hearts. This was my first book by Hillier and while I’m a little disturbed by her, I definitely want to read more from her. The mystery was well-written with many small twists that surprised me and there were some really flawed, but compelling characters. I feel like I’ve read a lot of so-so books lately and this one really grabbed me right from the start and kept my attention the whole time. I definitely recommend it to fans of darker mysteries.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hot Asset (21 Wall Street #1) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A sexy agent hounds Wall Street’s hottest new wolf in an exhilarating novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.

Ian Bradley is the definition of a Wall Street hotshot: seven-figure salary, designer suits, and a corner office. His drive off the floor is just as potent. Every woman who knows him has felt the rush. But now he’s met his match in Lara McKenzie—a woman with the power to bring Ian to his knees.

An ambitious, whip-smart daughter of FBI agents, Lara is a rising star in fighting white-collar crime. Her latest case—the investigation of Ian Bradley for insider trading—could make her career. She knows a scoundrel when she sees one. Ian fits the bill: a cocky, ridiculously handsome bad boy with a slick swagger.

She’ll do anything to prove he’s guilty. He’ll do anything to prove he’s not. But it’s only a matter of time before their fierce battle of wits gets oh so hot and personal. Now, taking down Ian has become more than business for Lara. It’s become a pleasure—and there’s more at risk than she ever dreamed.

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

Hot Asset will be available May 22, 2018. 

Lauren Layne has become one of my favorite Romance authors and I enjoyed Hot Asset just as much as I expected to.

I thought the insider trading plotline was interesting. I don’t think I’ve read a Romance with that particular angle before so it was something a little fresh, even though the rest of the plot played out very standard Romance. I would’ve liked just a little more information on how Wall Street works and the ins and outs of the SEC, but I did appreciate that there wasn’t information overload with it either.

I liked Lara and Ian as characters and also as a couple. They have a mutual respect for each other and their work ethics. I do wish that it would’ve taken just a little longer for them to fall for each other, though. While Lara didn’t let her feelings get in the way of her investigation, she did willingly put herself in some compromising positions multiple times and it felt a little more silly-schoolgirl than professional investigator. I also really enjoyed Ian’s group of friends. I’m looking forward to their books, especially Kennedy and Kate’s.

Overall, I enjoyed Hot Asset. I liked the setting and the characters and the romance. I thought about giving this 3 or 3.5 stars, just because, while enjoyable, it was a pretty standard, straight-forward romance. However, other than the couple of sex scenes, I don’t really have any other complaints about the book, so I’m bumping it up to 4 stars. I would recommend this to Romance fans, especially fans of Lauren Layne.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hangman (Detective William Fawkes #2) by Daniel Cole

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

How do you catch a killer who’s already dead?

Eighteen months have passed, but the scars the Ragdoll murders left behind remain.

DCI Emily Baxter is summoned to a meeting with US Special Agents Elliot Curtis of the FBI and Damien Rouche of the CIA. There, she is presented with photographs of the latest copycat murder: a body contorted into a familiar pose, strung up impossibly on the other side of the world, the word BAIT carved deep into its chest.

As the media pressure intensifies, Baxter is ordered to assist with the investigation and attend the scene of another murder to discover the same word scrawled across the victim, carved across the corpse of the killer – PUPPET.

As the murders continue to grow in both spectacle and depravity on both sides of the Atlantic, the team helplessly play catch up. Their only hope: to work out who the ‘BAIT’ is intended for, how the ‘PUPPETS’ are chosen but, most importantly of all, who is holding the strings.

Ragdoll was my favorite book of 2017 and I have been anxiously waiting for the follow-up ever since. Though the American release date is not for a couple more months, I won a giveaway for a book of my choice and was very excited to see I could get a UK edition of Hangman. While it didn’t quite live up to all my expectations, it was a well-written, engrossing mystery.

I’m going to get what I didn’t like about it out of the way first. You know how some people say “religion in a book ruins it for me”? Well, I am kind of the opposite. A strong Anti-God theme and mocking religion can ruin it for me. The book basically starts out with a character saying there is no God and it really just started me off on the wrong foot with the story. Any mention of God or religion throughout the book was condemning and I found it kind of offensive. While I wouldn’t say the atheism was a strong theme throughout the plot or anything, it was kind of brought up several times and I have to say it diminished my enjoyment a bit.

I thought the overall mystery was well-done. It was methodical and intriguing and suspenseful. Cole did a good job of making the atmosphere very tense and – at times – creepy. There was still some of the dark humor I appreciated from Ragdoll, but I didn’t think it was as funny as the first book.

After the events of Ragdoll unfolded, I really didn’t know how this William Fawkes series could continue. Hangman shifts focus to really shine the light on Baxter. I kind of hated Baxter in the first book and I have to say I don’t really like her any better here. She is smart and determined, but she’s deeply paranoid, self-centered, and abrasive. She is an interesting character, but it was kind of hard to care about her. Thankfully, my dear, sweet Edmunds was back, too. I absolutely adored him in the first book and continued to in this one. I also really enjoyed the introduction of CIA Agent Rouche. He was quirky and sad and I kind of loved him.

Overall, I did enjoy Hangman. I really like Cole’s writing and how he can mix humor in with such dark subjects. I liked the mystery and most of the characters. While I was offended by the mocking of religious beliefs and it did lessen my enjoyment a bit, it didn’t all out ruin the book for me. The very ending really has me looking forward to what will happen next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars