Review: Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact #3) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne, comes the final installment of the Central Park Pact series, a heartfelt and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that’s perfect for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren.

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

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

Marriage on Madison Avenue will be available January 28, 2020. 

I loved, loved, loved this! Few things make me happier than a cute Lauren Layne book and Marriage on Madison Avenue is one of her best yet.

Since their first scene together in the first book of the series, I have been wanting Audrey and Clarke’s story and it did not disappoint! This is both a Friends-to-More and Fake Relationship story, which is a combination of my favorite romantic tropes. I loved Audrey and Clarke’s friendship and I loved watching them realize their feelings for each other were more than that. Everything that happened was pretty predictable, but I enjoyed every moment of it anyways.

I thought Audrey and Clarke were both really likable characters and I was happy to see them get a happy ending. I also loved seeing the couples from the previous books, though I maintain that Naomi is much better in small doses. In addition to spending more time with the characters from this series, a few characters from Layne’s other series make appearances, which was quite fun.

Overall, I loved Marriage on Madison Avenue. I loved the characters, the romance, and the fake relationship aspects of the story. This was an enjoyable series and I think Layne definitely saved the best for last. I will miss these characters, but I look forward to whatever Layne writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe‘s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

I really enjoyed One of Us Is Lying and have been eagerly anticipating One of Us Is Next. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I still ended up really enjoying it, as well.

I was a little bit disappointed when I first found out that this sequel wouldn’t follow the same characters as the first book, but I ended up not minding at all. We still get to see all of the Bayview Four in more than just quick cameos and they even all get some character development, too. I also liked the new cast of characters. The three POVs follow Maeve, Bronwy’s sister – who I liked in the first book – and two new characters – Knox and Phoebe. I didn’t love Phoebe, but I really liked both Maeve and Knox. I also enjoyed Knox’s family dynamic with his many sisters and Maeve’s love interest, Luis. The story is pretty character driven and I just enjoyed reading about them.

The mystery wasn’t bad, but I did figure things out long before they were revealed. I also thought the secrets that were revealed and the dares that were made were kind of lame. I mean, there was a definite embarrassing factor for the secrets, but I guess I kind of expected something more. I also had a hard time believing that every single student in the school would keep the game completely a secret from their parents, school administration, and everyone else, just because they would lose phone privileges during school hours. That said, the stakes did raise a lot in part two and we got more of the suspense that I was expecting in the beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed One of Us Is Next. Though the mystery didn’t surprise me like I had been hoping, it was still pretty well done. What really kept me reading were the characters. I loved what we got to see of the characters from the last book, and I really enjoyed reading about the new ones. I think fans of YA Mystery will definitely enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: No Way Out (DI Adam Fawley #3) by Cara Hunter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED?

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

It was murder.

No Way Out was the first book I read in 2020 and it was the perfect choice to start my year out right. There’s not a whole lot I feel I can say about this book without spoilers, so I’m going to list some of the reasons why I loved it and the series in general.

-Cara Hunter is a terrific writer. I sometimes find police procedurals to be a little on the slow and dull side, but not this series. It’s so well plotted with lots of small twists and turns. The mystery here was really well done and much more intriguing than I expected it to be.

-I love the formatting of the book, as well. There are not standard chapters, which is something I thought I would hate when I read Hunter’s first book, but I was quickly proven wrong. I feel like the way it’s formatted keeps the pace from ever lagging and it also makes it so hard to put the book down. You decide it’s finally time to go to bed, but the next section is only two pages. Then the next section is just right there. And before you know it, you’ve read another twenty pages. I also enjoyed the excerpts from news articles, along with online comments, and reports.

-I love the cast of characters. One thing that I have always appreciated in this series is that even though Adam Fawley has had some tragic things happen to him, he is still well adjusted and good at his job. Far too often the lead in these type of books are some kind of functioning alcoholic or something. Though Fawley was a little off his game in this book, he still was a really likable and capable character. There are several other members of his team we get to follow as they investigate the case, as well as see bits and pieces of their personal lives.  It was the perfect balance of personal and professional for me and I loved seeing the dynamic of the group, as well.

Overall, I loved No Way Out. I love the characters and the mystery and the writing. I really can’t recommend this series highly enough. The one thing I wish, though, is that there was a US release date for this book and the next in the series. While the first two books in the series are available here, I had to get a UK version of the paperback for this one and I know I’m going to be going that route for book four, as well. It’s totally worth it, though!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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

Be careful who you let in.

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

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

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

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

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

The Family Upstairs will be available November 5, 2019. 

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Where Do I Begin? by Elvis Duran

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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

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Review from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars