Review: On Thin Ice (Juniper Falls #3) by Julie Cross

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Brooke Parker never expected to find herself in the tiny town of Juniper Falls, Minnesota. Of course, she also never expected to lose her dad. Or for her mom to lose herself. Brooke feels like she’s losing it…until she finds Juniper Falls hockey. Juniper Falls girls’ hockey, that is.

Jake Hammond, current prince of Juniper Falls, captain of the hockey team, and player with the best chance of scoring it big, is on top of the world. Until one hazing ritual gone wrong lands him injured, sitting on the sidelines, and―shocking even to him―finding himself enjoying his “punishment” as assistant coach for the girls’ team.

As Jake and Brooke grow closer, he finds the quiet new girl is hiding a persona full of life, ideas, and experiences bigger and broader than anything he’s ever known. But to Jake, hockey’s never just been a game. It’s his whole life. And leveraging the game for a shot at their future might be more than he can give.

Each book in the Juniper Falls series is STANDALONE:
* Off the Ice
* Breaking the Ice
* On Thin Ice

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

On Thin Ice will be available February 26, 2019. 

I have liked the other books in the Juniper Falls series, but I really loved On Thin Ice. It completely surpassed my expectations and I enjoyed it so much that I already want to re-read it.

I found both Jake and Brooke really likable characters. They both have had rough things happen in their lives and I felt like their reactions made sense for their age and situations. I also really loved them together. Their relationship didn’t have the best start, but I loved how it developed. I also really enjoyed seeing characters from the previous books like Tate, Claire, Fletcher, and Stellers.

I thought the hockey hazing storyline was well done. Over the course of the series we’ve seen how toxic the environment can be and how hockey players are given a lot of slack in the town, but it all really comes to a head here. I was glad to see the behavior was finally addressed and that it was the players themselves that brought it forward. It was a refreshing take on such a serious topic. I do wish that the issues with Brooke’s family were given a little more attention, though. Topics like self-harm and a suicide attempt are brought up and pretty quickly dismissed.

Overall, I just really loved On Thin Ice. I enjoyed the characters, the friendships, the romance, and the addictive writing. I really never wanted to put this one down. I recommend this one to fans of YA Contemporaries.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends–loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for–she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.

The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.

What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything–along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

Emma Mills books always make me happy and Famous in a Small Town was no exception. It’s been awhile since I smiled so much while reading a book.

As I’ve come to expect from Mills’ books, there are strong themes of friendship and family. I loved Sophie and her group of friends. There is so much effortless banter and I am completely here for it. I think that is one of the reason why I love books by this author so much. They are exactly my sense of humor.

While I loved the group of friends, a few of them – Flora, Dash, and especially Terrence – could’ve been a little more developed for me. Brit was well developed, but she was probably my least favorite person in the story. She was kind of the “wild” friend with a backstory that never really made sense to me. Which brings up another issue that made parts of the book not work for me. Several of the characters have some kind of heavy things happen to them, but none of them were really given enough attention to feel like anything more than a random side plot. A couple of them come kind of completely out of left field and then were never really explained or fully explored. I appreciated what Mills was trying to do with these storylines, but I just don’t think it worked here. I think if she would have picked one and focused on it, it would have worked a little better.

Enough with the negative, though, because I really enjoyed everything else. I loved Sophie and August together and really shipped the romance. I felt like they clicked from their very first scene together and then it just kept getting better. There’s some requisite angst here and there, but it still worked for me. I also really loved August’s brother and his family, who Sophie does a lot of babysitting for.

Overall, I really enjoyed Famous in a Small Town. I love how addictive Mills’ writing is and how even though it doesn’t feel like a lot is actually happening in the story, I never want to stop reading it. I loved the humor, the romance, the friendships, and that beautiful cover and I will be anxiously awaiting Mills’ next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

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

I Owe You One will be available February 5, 2019. 

I adored this book. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Sophie Kinsella novel and I’ve forgotten just how addictive they can be. Once I started it I could hardly put it down.

I really expected I Owe You One to be romance-heavy, but it wasn’t as central to the plot as I thought it would be. That wasn’t a bad thing, though. The story focuses a lot on Fixie’s relationship with her family and with her own issues of confidence and self-worth. Fixie got her nickname by always needing to fix things – messes, people, etc. Her siblings, Jake and Nicole, take advantage of her, as does Ryan, the man she’s had a crush on for most her life. Throughout most of the book I just couldn’t get over how awful those three people were. I was really frustrated by how Fixie let herself get steamrolled over and how she couldn’t speak up for herself. As the story goes on, though, she learns to speak up and practice a little tough love.

Even though the romance wasn’t as central as I expected, it did still play an important part in Fixie’s story. I just loved Seb. He was such a genuinely good person. I loved his sense of humor and how sweet he was. That’s not to say he’s perfect, of course. When he and Fixie first meet he’s dating someone else – who is of course awful and very ill-suited for him and that was frustrating. There’s a point where his and Fixie’s relationship hits a rocky spot and I wish they would have communicated a little more effectively, but I liked how it all turned out.

Overall, I really enjoyed I Owe You One. I liked Fixie and Seb and the quirky cast of supporting characters. I even liked Jake and Nicole by the end of the story. I liked Fixie’s character growth and her relationship with Seb. I was a little disappointed that the IOUs didn’t really pay as large a role in the book as I expected, but I did like how it was utilized. This is probably my new favorite Kinsella novel and I definitely recommend it to fans of Contemporary and Women’s Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Smiling Man (Aidan Waits Thriller #2) by Joseph Knox

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘Packing a punch from the very first page. You will love The Smiling Man’ Jane Harper, author of The Dry

From the bestselling author of Sirens, Detective Aidan Waits is on the hunt to find the identity of The Smiling Man.

Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city.

There they find the body of a man. He is dead.

And he is smiling.

The tags have been removed from the man’s clothes. His teeth filed down and replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into the inside of his trousers gives any indication as to who he was, and to the desperate last act of his life…

But even as Waits puts together the pieces of this stranger’s life, someone is sifting through the shards of his own.

When the mysterious fires, anonymous phone calls and outright threats escalate, he realises that a ghost from his own past haunts his every move.

And to discover the smiling man’s identity, he must finally confront his own.

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

The Smiling Man will be available January 15, 2019. 

I have been looking forward to reading The Smiling Man for awhile now and I’m happy to report that I liked it even more than the first book in the series.

Aidan Waits is such an interesting character. I was glad to see he was more sober in this book. His life is still a mess, but I feel he’s at least trying to get things in the right direction. I enjoyed his dysfunctional relationship with his shift partner/superior officer, Sutty. Their banter brought a little bit of levity to the otherwise heavy story, even though it was more of a dark humor. I was into it, though.

I thought the writing in the first book could be a little scattered and hard to follow at times, but I didn’t feel that way about this one. While there are several threads that I didn’t really see the connection in until the end, they all made sense. I really do like Knox’s writing style. It’s pretty addictive and when I gave myself time to sit down and read this book, I never wanted to put it down. I loved how short most of the chapters were, too.

Overall, I enjoyed The Smiling Man. Knox’s writing style is unique and addictive and I am eternally fascinated by Aidan Waits. I thought the mystery was well done, but I could’ve spent a little less time on some of the side mysteries, even though they all play in to the bigger picture. I am definitely looking forward to more in this series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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

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