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

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Review: Intercepted (Playbook #1) by Alexa Martin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Marlee thought she scored the man of her dreams only to be scorched by a bad breakup. But there’s a new player on the horizon, and he’s in a league of his own…

Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She’s definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There’s just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.

Gavin fights to show Marlee he’s nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team’s wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee’s return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.

Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin’s relationship to survive the season.

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

Guys, I loved this book! When I read Deanna’s review on it I knew I had to read it, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for how fun and addicting it would be. I never wanted to stop reading it. I read it in about 24 hours and that included having to take breaks for sleep and work.

I really enjoyed Marlee. She was quirky and funny and very likable. She did frustrate me every now and again, but for the most part I thought she was relatable and I loved being in her head. I also really liked her dad, her boss/friend Brynn, and her best friend Naomi. I even enjoyed the “Wicked Wives” and all the catty, mean girl drama they created. I also think it’s a fun tidbit that the author’s husband used to play football so she spent several years as a Football Wife and I have no doubt some of that over-the-top behavior is inspired by real life events.

And can we talk about Gavin for a moment? He was pretty darn perfect. He was so sweet and protective and I just adored him. I spent the whole book waiting for him to do something awful because no guy can be that perfect, right? Well, he never does anything awful, but he does do some stupid things towards the end of the book. While part of what he did kind of made sense to me (not that I thought it was ok, but I understood his thought process), his total obliviousness to how much he hurt Marlee was not at all consistent with his character and I didn’t like that he had to basically become a different person for a few chapters to create the necessary drama to move the plot forward. However, he does redeem himself and I’ll love him forever. (And that’s not a spoiler, because this is a Romance and we all know how it’s going to end.)

While I did very much enjoy the relationship between Marlee and Gavin, there was one aspect I was really missing. They had a one-night stand several years before when Marlee was on a break from her relationship with longtime boyfriend, Chris. We’re told a lot about how great all the physical parts of that night were (yes, I know this is a Romance, but I would’ve liked a little less graphic content), but I would’ve loved a flashback to what brought them to that. How did they meet? What was their initial connection like? When they meet again and Gavin starts pursuing her pretty hard once she breaks up with Chris it made it feel like it was just based off of physical attraction. Which didn’t make sense either because Gavin kept talking about how amazing Marlee was, so obviously he knew more about her from their one night together and I just would’ve liked to have seen that.

Overall, I just really enjoyed Intercepted. It’s been awhile since I had so much fun reading a Romance. I liked Martin’s writing style and even all the hashtags. Not all of them were golden, but for the most part I thought they added a good bit of humor. I also liked Marlee’s journey to becoming her own person and being able to recognize that being in a relationship can’t “fix” you. It was refreshing to have a Romance portray being in love as a good part of your life and not being your whole life. I recommend this one to Romance fans and I will definitely be reading more from Martin in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Promise (DS Imogen Grey #4) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

‘All hail the new Queen of Crime!’ Heat

When troubled teen Connor moves to Exeter from the US to escape his past, he finds himself embroiled in a world of popular kids and easy girls. Everyone wants to be his friend, but they don’t know about what he did…and they don’t know about his father.

As Connor’s life in England begins to unravel, DS Adrian Miles and his partner Imogen Grey are working up against the clock to catch a serial killer who dates his victims before he kills them. Determined to uncover the truth, Imogen is forced to act as bait – but will she take it too far and risk her own life?

Katerina Diamond is back with a bang in this dark, twisted novel, perfect for fans of M.J. Arlidge and Karin Slaughter.

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

The Promise will be available September 20, 2018.

Last year I read and fell in love with the DS Imogen Grey series and The Promise was one of my most anticipated books of 2018. I’m so happy to report that it completely lived up to my expectations.

I just love Diamond’s writing style. The mysteries are always so well done and also really character driven. Even though the book was kind of long, I just flew right through it. I never wanted to put it down. I will say that this is the first of her books that I figured things out well before they were revealed, but I was so invested in all the characters that I didn’t mind not being surprised like I have been before.

While the story is told through several different viewpoints, we get quite a lot of Connor’s POV. I think we actually hear more from him than from Imogen or Adrian and while I expected that to upset me, it didn’t. As I mentioned earlier, I was heavily invested in the characters and that included Connor. I felt so bad for all that he went through and just wanted to see him catch a break. Though he plays an integral role in the mystery and the lead up to the resolution, I thought his own ending was left a little more open than I like. Though I don’t anticipate it happening, I really wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in future books.

There were a few developments in Imogen and Adrian’s personal relationships and their partnership, as well. Adrian is still grieving from the events of the previous book. Imogen struggles with making the decision  between keeping her relationship with Dean or moving along in her career. In addition, their own relationship begins to change and neither of them are sure about what’s happening. I don’t want to get too spoilery, but I am very, very anxious to see how things develop in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Promise. I’m afraid this little review doesn’t come close to expressing how much. I loved the writing, the mystery, and the characters. While this book still had plenty of dark content, it wasn’t as dark as some of the other books in this series and I liked that. Katerina Diamond has really become one of my favorite authors and I definitely recommend her to mystery and crime fans. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars 

Review: Beartown (Beartown #1) by Fredrik Backman

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded town. And that rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior hockey team is about to compete in the national championships, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of the town now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

A victory would send star player Kevin onto a brilliant professional future in the NHL. It would mean everything to Amat, a scrawny fifteen-year-old treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice. And it would justify the choice that Peter, the team’s general manager, and his wife, Kira, made to return to his hometown and raise their children in this beautiful but isolated place.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Hers is a story no one wants to believe since the truth would mean the end of the dream. Accusations are made, and like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Have you ever read a book that’s kind of depressing and really inspiring at the same time? That’s Beartown.

To be perfectly honest, I really had no interest in this book, despite all the amazing reviews. I just didn’t think it sounded like it would be for me. But then a friend lent it to me (thanks Brandie!) and after it sat on my table for a month, I finally felt like giving it a try. And now it’s one of my favorite books of the year. Though it took me a little while to really get into the rhythm of the writing, once I did I was completely enthralled. It’s beautiful and insightful and will be sticking with me for a long time.

The story is very character driven. There is a very large cast of characters in this town and they all play a part and provide a unique perspective. I thought I would have trouble keeping them all straight, but I really didn’t. While it did make the pacing a little slow, Backman really lets us get to know all the characters. I had my favorites and I had those I hated and some characters I both loved and hated. They were real and relatable and heartbreaking and inspiring.

“…Most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”

I thought this was going to just be a sports book and even though I knew something bad was going to happen, I wasn’t expecting it to be so heavy. I thought this was one of the most honest books I have every read and that honesty will both make you despair and and give you hope.

Overall, I really loved Beartown. I know this little review doesn’t come close to expressing how much. I was incredibly invested in the characters and their town and I know this story will be with me for a long time. The writing was beautiful and sometimes I found myself just wanting to cry without even really knowing why (and other times when I definitely knew why…). If you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favor and give it a try.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

Review: Lies by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

What if you have the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect child—then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems? Now you are in the sights of a ruthless killer determined to destroy everything you treasure.

It’s the evening drive home from work on a route Joe Lynch has taken a hundred times with his young son. But today, Joe sees his wife meet another man—an encounter that will rip two families apart. Raising the question: Can we ever really trust those closest to us?

Joe will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but as the deception unravels, so does his life. A life played out without any rules. And a cunning opponent who’s always one step ahead.

In the tradition of The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney and Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris, T. M. Logan’s Lies is an unputdownable thriller that will keep readers guessing until the jaw-dropping finale.

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

Lies by T.M. Logan will be available September 11, 2018. 

Lies is a well-paced, entertaining thriller that managed to surprise me. The chapters were short and snappy and mostly ended in cliffhangers which made me keep saying “just one more, chapter” every time I thought I would put the book down. I thought the mystery was pretty well done, as well. I definitely guessed some of it, but not all of it, so I really enjoyed the reveal at the end. I did think it dragged just a bit in the middle, though, and could’ve been a little shorter.

While I liked Joe, I did have some issues with him. Here’s the thing about a lot of books with the whole “ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances” thing. They try to play detective and think they know better than everyone else and EVERY. SINGLE. THING. they do makes them look bad. Joe fell heavily into this trope and he kind of drove me crazy for most of the book. I just couldn’t believe how he couldn’t realize he was basically shooting himself in the foot every time he opened his mouth or followed up some lead. That said, he was still a sympathetic character I couldn’t help but root for.

Technology and social media is an important part of the book and it’s really made me want to go live off the grid. Things like Amazon’s Echo products that listen to you all day every day already kind of freak me out, but I don’t usually think much of all the information my phone records. Technology is terrifying and the way it was so easy to manipulate it to make Joe look so guilty was chilling.

Overall, I enjoyed Lies. I loved that the chapters were so short and suspenseful. While Joe did frustrate me, he was still a likable character that I wanted to see vindicated. I’m upping my overall rating a bit because the end managed to surprise me. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a fast and entertaining mystery.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic). Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy — until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back…and he’s not alone.Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.

First of all, I want to say thanks to Brandie for putting this book on my radar! I never would have picked it up if I didn’t know how much she loved it.

-Almost all of my GoodReads friends that have read this either marked it as 5 stars or 1 star, so I wasn’t really sure what to think going into it. After reading it, I think I understand. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked in by the lovely writing, strongly developed characters, and overwhelming emotion of the story. However, if you start to pick apart some of the little things with it, I can see how quickly that rating might go down. For me, the good outweighed the bad, but of course I still have to point some things out.

-There is a lot of cheating in this book and it was handled so oddly. With little exception it was met with either apathy or almost instant forgiveness. It just didn’t feel very realistic. And cheating in books always brings my enjoyment level down a tad.

-There was also a lot of sex. None if it was graphic, which I appreciated. But, it just felt like a little much. There were passages like, “We made love. And then we made love again. And then we made love again. Oh, and then we made love again….” Like, it just didn’t add anything to the story.

-The story is told in Alix’s first person POV in an omniscient style. (It’s eventually revealed she’s writing all this in a journal.) I didn’t mind this for the most part, but almost every chapter ended in some type of ominous warning about the next chapter which I thought was kind of cheesy. Especially because most of the time, things didn’t really play out as ominously as expected.

-Lack in communication caused pretty much every conflict in the book and that’s kind of one of my pet peeves.

-Ok, I’ll focus on the positive things now. The characters in this book were pretty great. They are real and flawed and relatable. Yes, they all made stupid decisions from time to time, but they all found some redemption, as well, which I really liked. I especially loved Alix’s grandfather, The Judge.

-I really enjoyed the small town, southern setting. It was jut the right amount of descriptive writing for me. And speaking of the writing, it really was quite beautiful, as well as addicting.

-The romance was kind of epic. I loved seeing Alix and Nick grow from childhood to adulthood. I really believed in their love and wanted them to be together. They had a ton of obstacles they had to overcome, most of them of their own making, but it was such a wonderful slow burn to them actually being together. I liked that it wasn’t easy and that they had to work at it. After everything they went through I would’ve been disappointed if their happily ever just simply happened.

Overall, I really did enjoy The Sweet Gum Tree. It was completely addicting and I could hardly put it down. While I did obviously have some issues with it, I thought it was beautiful and emotional and I can’t stop thinking about it. I will definitely be reading it again in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

He’s a Wall Street wolf. She’s been hired to tame him. From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes a wildly sexy novel of business and pleasure.

Twenty-eight and filthy rich, Matt Cannon is the youngest broker on Wall Street. He may be a “boy wonder,” but he’s every inch a man. Ask any woman—any night. But when Matt’s latest fling makes scandalous headlines, his clients get anxious, and his bosses at Wolfe Investments level an ultimatum: keep his assets zipped, get a “real” girlfriend, and clean up his act. Only one woman can help Matt with something this hard.

For PR genius Sabrina Cross, the best fixer in Manhattan, playing Matt’s steady is going to be a challenge, even if it’s just for show. They already have an explosive history, she can’t stand the cocky party boy, and worse—she can’t stop thinking about him. So who’ll dare to break her “no touching” rule first? Because when that happens, Matt and Sabrina’s game of let’s pretend will get so hot it could set both their reputations on fire.

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

Hard Sell will be available September 4, 2018. 

I love Lauren Layne books. They are always the perfect choice to get me out of any reading slump. Hard Sell is the second book in the 21 Wall Street series and I think I enjoyed it even more than the first.

I love both Fake Relationship and Hate-to-Love stories and this book utilized both. In the first book of the series Matt and Sabrina were side characters and I wasn’t really sold on the idea of them being in a relationship, but I did end up really liking them together here. They’ve kind of had this dysfunctional thing for a few years and it was a slow burn to actual love and romance and I was here for it. I thought they were really well suited for each other and I liked how their friendship evolved, along with the romance.

Like all of Layne’s books there were a couple of scenes that were a little more graphic than I like, but other than that I enjoyed pretty much every moment of the book. I like the cast of characters and I am really looking forward to getting a book focusing on Kennedy and Kate. One thing I would’ve liked to have seen a little more, though, is Kate’s job. She’s a “fixer” so I felt like there were endless possibilities for a little extra fun or drama, but there’s really not much done with it.

Overall, I really enjoyed Hard Sell. Layne is easily one of my favorite Romance authors and I just love her more with each book I read. I definitely recommend this to Romance fans. While it is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars