Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…
 
Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

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

My Lovely Wife will be available March 26, 2019.

Well, this story was delightfully messed up. My Lovely Wife is compulsively readable with an anti-hero you know you shouldn’t root for, but still do.

This was definitely a fun variation on the serial killer novel. Here the killers are a husband and wife team, though they’re a little lacking on the team aspect. They both have secrets from each other and at various times throughout the story you will be trying to figure out just which one is more sinister. While I did think a lot of things were pretty obvious and was not really surprised with how it all ended up, it did have a couple of nice little reveals throughout that kept me on my toes.

One thing I thought was kind of odd is that we are never told the husband’s name. The story is told through his first person POV and I honestly didn’t even notice his real name was never mentioned until I sat down to write this review and couldn’t remember it. This is not the first book I’ve come across that doesn’t share the main character’s name and I have to admit that I just don’t understand what the impact is supposed to be? Maybe it’s supposed to make me identify more with the character?

Overall, I enjoyed My Lovely Wife. This is one of those books where I don’t feel like I can share too much more than I already have without really starting to give things away. I liked the main character, even though he was very messed up and I knew I shouldn’t. He still managed to be just empathetic enough that I could almost overlook the bad things he’s done. I liked the focus on the family and how the parents’ actions were impacting their children. While the mystery may not shock seasoned readers of the genre, I think the compulsive writing and interesting characters will still make this an enjoyable read.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

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Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies, comes her newest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? These nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

I enjoyed Nine Perfect Strangers. I did. I just kind of wished more actually happened in it. The story is extremely character-driven. If you are someone who needs a lot more than intense character development, this might not be for you. Though there were times that I felt it dragged a little too much, I did really grow attached to the characters, so I didn’t mind it as much by the end as I did in the beginning.

I’m going to talk a little bit about the Nine Perfect Strangers:

Frances: A successful Romance author who has had her most recent book rejected. She has also gone through a rather painful and unconventional breakup which has resulted in some stress-related physical ailments. I would say the majority of the chapters were told from her POV. In a book with so many characters, it’s kind of hard to point one out one as the Main Character, but I would say Frances is it. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite love her. She was an interesting character and I definitely wanted to see what happened to her, but I could have gotten a lot less of her and been happy. I did like how everything turned out for her in the end, though.

Tony: A divorcee and retired professional athlete whose dog recently died. Tony is depressed and wants to change. I liked Tony. I enjoyed it him a lot more as the story went on and he began to open up more. I really liked how his life went after leaving Tranquillium House.

Ben and Jessica: A young, newly wealthy married couple. Ben is obsessed with his Lamborghini and Jessica is addicted to plastic surgery.  Their newly rich status and how each responds to it has put a strain on their marriage and they are interested in couples counseling. I have to admit that I liked Ben a lot more than I liked Jessica. I really would’ve liked more POVs from Ben.

Napoleon, Heather, and Zoe: A family that have been grieving a loss for three years and are trying to move on. They each carry some guilt and some secrets. I could take or leave Heather and Zoe, but I really liked Napoleon. He was one of my favorite characters and I wouldn’t have minded some more from him, either.

Carmel: A recently divorced mother of four. Her children are on a trip of a lifetime with her ex-husband and his new wife and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She goes to the retreat to lose weight, even though she doesn’t really need to. I didn’t really care that much about Carmel, but she was another one I really liked how her life went in the final chapters.

Lars: An incredibly attractive divorce lawyer who is addicted to wellness retreats and is avoiding his longtime boyfriend who wants to have a baby. Lars was pretty much exactly the type of character you would expect him to be based on that description. I liked him and felt we got just enough of his POV.

In addition to the nine perfect strangers, we also get POVs from Masha, the owner of the resort, and her employees, Yao and Delilah. Masha is kind of a brilliant psychopath. She used to be a high-powered executive until she had a major health crisis and had to make some big changes. She opened Trainquillium House to help others change their lives, as well. Or so it seems. Yao is completely devoted to Masha and the message of the resort. I really enjoyed his character arc from beginning to end and he was probably my second favorite character. We only hear from Delilah once or twice and I was fine with that. The resort was a job to her, nothing more, and she definitely hadn’t drunk the Kool Aid (or the green smoothie).

Overall, I enjoyed Nine Perfect Strangers. For awhile I was a little frustrated that it didn’t seem like anything was really happening, but once I got invested in all the characters I was able to appreciate the story for what it was. I do not think this book will be everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it enough to tip my rating up a bit.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author that “hilariously depicts modern dating” (Us Weekly) comes a sexy romantic comedy about online dating, and its many, many fails.

With a world-famous speaker at their university, Millie Morris and her four woefully single male colleagues make a pact that they’ll all find dates. Unfortunately, Millie has more success helping them make matches online than she does navigating the onslaught of lewd pics in her own feed. But when she creates a fictional name for a new account, Millie finds herself vying for the online attention of a man she sees every day in the flesh.

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

My Favorite Half-Night Stand will be available 12/4/18.

Super cute and fun, My Favorite Half-Night Stand was enjoyable from start to finish.

I absolutely adored Millie and Reid’s friend group. All my favorite parts were when they were all together or group messaging. They were funny, but could also be really supportive. In my younger years, I had a lot of very platonic guy friends and some of the conversations they have in this book reminded me so much of hanging out with my friends and being the only girl in the group. I loved how relatable they were.

I liked Millie and Reid together, too. They had a closer friendship than Millie had with the other guys and I really enjoyed their banter and how they were with each other. I didn’t love their half-night stands, but seeing as that’s the title of the book, I knew what I was getting myself into. The scenes were more graphic than I wanted, but not that bad as it could have been since I was expecting it. And of course, a large part of the target audience will be all about it.

So where it went a little downhill for me was Millie’s absolute inability to talk about anything emotionally heavy and how the online dating storyline was extremely similar to another book I’ve read recently. I didn’t like Millie’s deceit, even though she had good intentions, and I knew that it would eventually blow up in her face. She really frustrated me at times with her refusal to communicate, too. However, I did like that she really learned some lessons and started to grow as a person because of what happened.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Favorite Half-Night Stand. I liked the romance and the humor and the characters. The group of friends is the reason why I’m upping my rating a little bit more than I thought I would originally give it. Christina Lauren fans will definitely want to give this one a try, as will other Romance/Contemporary readers.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

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

My Sister, the Serial Killer will be available November 20, 2018. 

I always enjoy a good serial killer thriller. This one was a little different than others I have read before and from what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it just as much.

I absolutely loved Oyinkan Braithwaite’s writing style. I love short chapters and she was able to really use them effectively. I flew right through this book because I was never able to say “just one more chapter” and actually mean it. Even though the plot was never exactly harrowing, there was definitely a tense atmosphere and I had to do know what would happen next. It also managed to not be a really heavy or somber read. It was just really entertaining.

So how is this different than other serial killer stories? It’s told from the point of view of Korede, the sister of the killer, Ayoola. Korede is the older sister who has always taken care of Ayoola, even into adulthood. That includes cleaning up after her murders. Ayoola always claims self defense, but Korede has kind of stopped believing her. While no deep, psychological explanation is given for Ayoola’s behavior, we do explore the sisters’ childhood with their abusive father that we get to draw our own conclusions from. The story is really more about Korede’s relationship with her sister, who she both loves and resents and the choices she must make when the man she has feelings for falls into Ayoola’s web.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer. I loved the writing, the short chapters, and the interesting characters. I enjoyed reading about a different culture, as well. The only thing I didn’t really like about it is that I felt it left a few more things open-ended than I like. While it wasn’t the kind of story I was expecting it to be, it was really enjoyable and I definitely recommend it. I look forward to reading more from Braithwaite in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: On Magnolia Lane (Blue Ridge Romance #3) by Denise Hunter

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From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same.

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

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

On Magnolia Lane will be available November 6, 2018.

I’ve enjoyed the other books in the Blue Ridge Romance series and On Magnolia Lane just might be my favorite of the series.

I found both the lead characters, Daisy and Jack, to be likable. Sometimes I struggle with the likability factor of this author’s female leads, but I really liked Daisy here. She was kind and I felt like all of her reactions to some of the bad things she found out about were reasonable. I really liked Jack, too, though the whole dating site deceit storyline did keep me from really loving him.

Speaking of the dating site, that part of the plot really reminded me of another one of Hunter’s books. In the interest of full disclosure, I only read a couple of chapters of that book before I decided it wasn’t for me. I have to admit that while it didn’t ruin the book for me or anything, I really didn’t like it any better here. In a different book, I probably would’ve been ok with the male lead being a little dishonest about being the online suitor. I got that he wanted her to get to know him without the Pastor title she associated with him. BUT, I feel like as a Pastor he should’ve handled it better. I have a really hard time excusing his deceit in light of his occupation.

Which brings us to the message of forgiveness. Even though we have a tendency to place certain people on pedestals, everyone is just human and fallible. It’s only by grace that we are forgiven. This is a really easy truth to accept until you’re faced with being betrayed by someone you care about. In addition to Jack’s deceit, Daisy finds out things about her parents that was hard to get past. I found myself in a similar situation over the past year so I found this very relatable and it’s probably the biggest reason this is my favorite book of the series. It made me realize I still have a little ways to go when it comes to forgiveness, too.

Overall, I enjoyed On Magnolia Lane. It was a quick, easy read that I flew right through. I liked the characters and the message of forgiveness and grace. I believe this is the last book in the Blue Ridge Romance series and I thought it ended well. I recommend it to fans of Contemporary Christian Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Darkest Star (Origin #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen…but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she’d only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head…

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the universe of the Lux in this brand new series, featuring beloved characters both new and old.

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

The Darkest Star will be available October 30, 2018. 

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series is one of my favorite YA series and I was so excited to learn there was going to be a spin-off. Luc was such an interesting character in the Lux world and I always hoped we would get more of his story someday. While The Darkest Star didn’t give me all that I was anticipating, it was definitely a good start to this new series.

I think Armentrout definitely wrote this book so it’s possible to read without having read the original series it spun-off from. This is great for new readers, but it did provide me with some frustration. Lux fans already know what Luc is and we know his connection to Evie (maybe we aren’t supposed to connect the dots so quickly, but yeah). However, it takes to about the 45% mark before the word “Origin” is used. I felt like there was way too much build up for something I already knew. I also felt like the plot was pretty thin. The whole book is basically Evie finding out about Luc and her connection to him and how she deals with that. There’s a bit of a murder and mystery thrown in, but mostly there’s just a lot of up set up for future books.

Speaking of things I already knew, I thought that this book was extremely similar to Obsidian, the first book of the Lux series. There were scenes between Luc and Evie that seemed almost carbon copies from scenes of Daemon and Katy. I’m really hoping that symmetry was intentional. I was also expecting Daemon and Katy to play larger roles here, but Daemon is only in a few scenes and Katy is mentioned a couple of times, but never appears. I’m really hoping they pop up in future books because I will always need more Daemon Black in my life. I also liked the Archer cameo and would like more from him, as well.

So, despite some obvious issues, I did really enjoy this book. I have so much love for the first series and just being back in their world was so nostalgic for me. I’ve always liked Luc and I liked him just as much here. I also thought Evie was a pretty likable character. I really thought we were going to get Luc’s POV and was a little disappointed that we didn’t, but Evie was a good narrator so I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would. I enjoyed the signature JLA banter between them and look forward to seeing their relationship progress.

Overall, I enjoyed The Darkest Star. I’m increasing my rating by at least half a star just because reading it gave me so much nostalgia for Lux. I’m already planning on going back and re-reading it. I honestly don’t know if I can be impartial enough to rate or recommend this book without letting myself be influenced by the first series. I do think that fans of JLA will enjoy this, especially if they read the Lux series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sharon Bolton returns with her creepiest standalone yet, following a young cop trying to trace the disappearances of a small town’s teenagers.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive. Florence was able to solve the mystery and get a confession out of Larry before more children were murdered., and he spent the rest of his life in prison.

But now, decades later, he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Is someone copying the original murders? Or did she get it wrong all those years ago? When her own son goes missing under similar circumstances, the case not only gets reopened… it gets personal.

In master of suspense Sharon Bolton’s latest thriller, readers will find a page-turner to confirm their deepest fears and the only protagonist who can face them.

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

The Craftsman will be available October 16, 2018. 

Sharon Bolton has written some of my favorite books and I have been eagerly anticipating The Craftsman for quite awhile. Like I have come to expect from Bolton’s books, it was a well done, suspenseful mystery. It was even a little creepy at times. But it definitely took a departure into the supernatural that I was not expecting.

I have to say I was not a fan of the whole witch angle. It would have been one thing to have groups that fancy themselves witches, but Bolton makes the characters credible witches who perform magic. Now, I’ve read a good deal of paranormal books that included witches and been fine with it because there were also things like vampires and werewolves and what-not, and those books were always solidly in the fantasy column. I don’t feel this book is supposed to be considered paranormal at all, though, and that kind of made the conclusions a little hard to take seriously. However, I don’t feel this theme was made really prevalent until the last part of the book, so it didn’t ruin the rest of the book for me, it just made me a little more dissatisfied than I hoped.

The book is broken up into three parts. It starts in 1999 with Florence at the funeral of the serial killer she helped put away thirty years ago. The bulk of the book is the second part, which flashes back 30 years to the investigation. I really have to hand it to Bolton for keeping the suspense high during this time. We already know how the case ended, what atrocities Florence faced, and how her romantic life turned out. But none of that kept me from turning the pages as fast as I could to see what happened next and kind of loving the guy that I knew I shouldn’t be shipping her with. The third part goes back to the “present” (1999) where I felt the events of the synopsis finally kicked in. I thought it was a little bit rushed at the ending, but everything was tied up well enough.

Overall, I enjoyed The Craftsman, but it’s not my favorite of Bolton’s books. I appreciate that she took a chance to write something a little different than normal, but the whole witch thing isn’t really my cup of tea. There were some small twists and turns that surprised me, but most of the reveals I guessed well before they were revealed and one made me super sad (but would be too spoilery to expand upon).  However, I do love Bolton’s writing style, the alternating timeline, and the characters. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Bolton in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars