Review: Catch Him If You Can (Accidentally Yours #2) by Jennifer Shirk

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Veterinarian Wade Roberts is done with love. But try convincing the elderly folk of Cape Harmony who are determined to play matchmaker. Now the young single women in town are bombarding him with baked goods and love notes, and being “taken” is the only way to stop the meddling grannies—which is why he needs a fake fiancée. Fast.

Arden Pearson loves planning weddings. Other people’s weddings, that is. After her own engagement ended in disaster, she prefers to live vicariously through her work. But when she needs to persuade a big client that she’s capable of planning the celebrity wedding of the year, she’s willing to go as far as pretending to be engaged herself to her best friend’s older brother.

Soon their ruse has everyone in town believing they make the perfect couple—including Arden. She’s always been nothing more than a kid sister to Wade, and it might take a village to convince him otherwise…

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

Catch Him If You Can will be available August 13, 2018. 

This book was so cute! After reading a number of mysteries/thrillers lately I was really in the mood for something light and sweet and Catch Him If You Can was exactly what I needed. I found myself smiling through the whole book.

I love a good fake relationship story and Jennifer Shirk always does a good job with them. I thought the circumstances leading up to the relationship were humorous, especially the small town matchmakers that were driving Wade crazy. I would’ve like maybe a couple more awkward, fake-dating moments before the relationship started to become more real, but overall I thought it developed at a good pace.

I thought Wade and Arden were both really likable characters. They both had a good sense of humor and I enjoyed all their scenes together. The secondary cast of characters were all likable, if not exactly memorable. I also really liked seeing Kinsley and Damon from the previous book.

Overall, I really enjoyed Catch Him If You Can. I always enjoy fake relationship stories and this one was so cute and exactly what I wanted it to be. It was humorous and sweet and the perfect weekend read. I definitely recommend it to fans of Sweet Romances.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue. 

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it. 

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via a Good Reads giveaway and also an e-copy via NetGalley. This does not impact my review.

Our House will be available August 7, 2018. 

Our House is one of my most anticipated books of the summer and while it wasn’t quite what I expected, I definitely enjoyed it.

I really liked the formatting of this novel. Fi tells her side of the story through a popular podcast and interspersed with it are tweets as people listen to the podcast and also excerpts from a document Bram is writing to tell his side of the story. There is also straightforward narration from both their POVs detailing the immediate aftermath of Fi finding out her house has been sold. I thought this style was used really effectively to reveal all the twists and turns throughout the story.

I thought the book was very character-driven and felt like I got to know both Fi and Bram pretty well. I have to say that Bram really frustrated me pretty much the whole book. He just told so many little lies that if he had just been honest about any of them early on then things would have never gotten so out of hand. It was hard not to feel like he deserved what happened to him. Fi was a more likable and empathetic character and I really felt bad for all the things Bram put her through.

While there were some fun twists and turns, I did figure most of them out well before they were revealed. I didn’t really mind that, but it did make it feel unnecessarily long at times. I think the story would have benefited from being a little shorter and a little faster-paced. However, I liked that as I was trying to figure out some of the surprises, it took my attention off of something else that gave the very end of the book a nice twist and that ending is why I’m bumping my rating up a little more than I was originally planning.

Overall, I enjoyed Our House. Though it did feel a little longer than necessary and I did figure out many things before they were revealed, I enjoyed the twists and turns the story took and especially liked the ending. I recommend it to fans of character-driven mysteries, nontraditional formatting, and some unreliable narration. This was my first book by Louise Candlish and I definitely want to check out more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley #1) by Cara Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

They know who did it. Perhaps not consciously. Perhaps not yet. But they know. 

When eight-year-old Daisy Mason vanishes from her family’s Oxford home during a costume party, Detective Inspector Adam Fawley knows that nine times out of ten, the offender is someone close to home. And Daisy’s family is certainly strange—her mother is obsessed with keeping up appearances, while her father is cold and defensive under questioning. And then there’s Daisy’s little brother, so withdrawn and uncommunicative . . .

DI Fawley works against the clock to find any trace of the little girl, but it’s as if she disappeared into thin air—no one saw anything; no one knows anything. But everyone has an opinion, and everyone, it seems, has a secret to conceal.

This book, guys! It’s SO GOOD! Why has no one told me how good this is? In any case, I am here to tell you to go read this book!

Close to Home kept me guessing the whole time. Did one of my guesses end up being right? Sure, but I had about 9 theories going at the same time and I really didn’t commit to the real conclusion until only a few pages before it was revealed. Hunter did an incredible job of making numerous red herrings seem not just plausible, but likely.

The characterization was really great, as well. I really hated the Masons and I just wanted to find out what the deal was with this crazy family. I also really liked all of the police officers. It’s not often in these type of books that the members of the police force are so likable, but they were here. I can’t wait to read more about them. Adam Fawley was a great main character. Even though he had a tragic backstory, he was not some cliched, half-way functioning alcoholic. He was a good detective and he was also a good person.

I thought I would hate the non-traditional formatting with it’s lack of proper chapters, but it actually ended up working for me. It kept the pace very steady and it made it so much easier for me to keep reading right past my bedtime. I loved the multiple POVs and timelines utilized, as well as the tweets. I feel this book helps prove my theory that Twitter is the worst thing to ever happen to society (and yes, I say that knowing that I will tweet a link to this review). The whole Trial by Twitter thing is so relevant to our world today and I thought it was really smart to include it here.

The only tiny thing I didn’t like about the book was that I wanted more details for the conclusion. We’re given enough answers to know what happens, but I would have liked to have known all the little details on how we got there. It was just a little too vague to fully satisfy me, but this is me just being nit-picky.

Overall, I just loved Close to Home. I loved the characters and the writing and the mystery. I am blown away that this is Cara Hunter’s debut book. It was so cleverly written and I never wanted to put it down. This is my favorite book of the year so far and Hunter has made her way onto my favorite authors list. I can’t wait to read the next book!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

 

Review: Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins is beloved for her heartfelt novels filled with humor and wisdom. Now, in her newest novel, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, she tackles an issue every woman deals with: body image and self-acceptance.

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.

For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it’s coming to terms with the survivor’s guilt she’s carried around since her twin sister’s death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it’s about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother’s and brother’s ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.

But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson’s dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves.

A novel of compassion and insight, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT tells the story of two women who learn to embrace themselves just the way they are.

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

Good Luck with That will be available August 7, 2018.

Oh, do I have some thoughts on this one! Since lists are an important part of the book, I’m going to go that route with my review.

-Kristan Higgins has always been one of my favorite Romance authors. I’ve read all her romance books multiple times. Her last few books have moved into Women’s Fiction which I was resistant to. However, Higgins is a very talented author and despite some of the issues I had with this (I’ll get to those, don’t worry), I enjoyed almost every moment of reading it.

-We’ve all seen the pre-publication hate for the topic of Good Luck with That. I seem to remember the original synopsis was a bit different than it is now? I thought that’s why people came out so hard against it, but please correct me if I’m wrong. While I do have a level of trust in Higgins writing, I was still a little weary of reading this. I’m happy to say that while it still definitely had it’s moments, it was not nearly as offensive as I thought it was going to be. Yet another example of why people should not be allowed to rate a book before reading it.

-I felt like the main message of the story was really to live your life now instead of waiting for some arbitrary goal that may or may not ever be achieved. For the women of the novel, that was waiting to do things until they lost weight, but I think this idea will still be relatable to people from all walks of life. There was also a message that people of all shapes and sizes have a hard time with self-acceptance.

-I really liked both Marley and Georgia. They were very well-developed characters. There was never a time when I was sad to see the POV change between them. I also really loved Georgia’s nephew, Mason. He was so sweet and I loved his relationship with Georgia. I also enjoyed the romantic interests, Will and Rafe. Most of the rest of the secondary characters were not so great, though. Their behavior was so over the top that they didn’t feel very realistic.

-Even though the book was not as offensive as I expected, there is still a healthy (unhealthy?) level of fat shaming going on, as well as an underlying level of disgust towards the overweight. I feel kind of motivated to work out more and eat better, but not because I’ve been inspired to live a happier and healthier life, but because I feel straight up shamed into it.

**Ever so slightly Spoiler-y on a romantic interest – but it’s something you will probably figure out much sooner than it’s revealed, anyways** One of the characters has PTSD and agoraphobia and I REALLY disliked how Marley responded to it. She was a tiny bit sympathetic, but mostly when she wanted him to go out somewhere with her she told him he should just get over it because “she’s worth it.” People with severe mental health issues like that cannot just “get over it”, no matter how much they want to please their loved ones. It felt incredibly insensitive and irresponsible how this whole plotline was dealt with and I really expected more from Higgins. I also thought it kind of paralleled a storyline with Georgia and Rafe, where he thought she shouldn’t be insecure in her appearance since he found her attractive. In that scenario, however, it’s conveyed how incorrect that line of thinking is.

-By the end of the book, I didn’t really feel like Good Luck with That was a “body-positive” or a “fat-shaming” book. It definitely had aspects of both, but the central message was really more about friendship, family, and living life to the fullest, despite your circumstances. I think fans of Higgins writing and Women’s Fiction will enjoy it. While there are parts that some may find offensive, the story really is about so much more than those parts.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Dead Drift (Chesapeake Valor #4) by Dani Pettrey

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Private Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

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

I’ve really enjoyed Dani Pettrey’s Chesapeake Valor series and I thought Dead Drift was a great conclusion.

While I initially didn’t really love the terrorism plot line that first appeared in book two of the series, I thought it worked really well here. It really takes center stage and I was invested it. The secondary mystery circled back to an on-going investigation from the first book and the killer of Griffin’s little sister was finally revealed. I thought the mixture of the urgency and the emotional were balanced much better here than in the previous book, which was probably my least favorite of the series.

I really liked Luke. I was excited for him to finally take a central role and he didn’t disappoint. I would’ve loved to hear a little more of his time away, but I thought the reasons for his disappearance and silence for seven years was well explained, as well as how he felt about it. I liked Kate more than I thought I would, but she’s definitely not my favorite female lead of the series. I loved seeing the whole gang all together. They are a very likable group and I will miss reading about them.

I only have two real complaints. I didn’t like that we didn’t get very much time with Parker and Avery at all. All the other characters got a good amount of page time, but I didn’t feel like they were very present which disappointed me because they’re my favorite couple of the series. I also didn’t like that there’s a really big moment in the conclusion of the terrorism plot line that was just mentioned after the fact instead of being able to experience it with the characters. I thought Pettrey did a really good job with the all the action scenes up to that point and would have liked to have seen that important moment.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dead Drift. I thought the mysteries were intriguing and I really liked getting Luke’s POV. As always, I thought Pettrey did a good job with the Christian elements of the story. It’s never preachy, but just an organic part of the characters’ lives. I’m really going to miss these characters and look forward to the author’s next series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: I Think I Love You (Oxford #5) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A game of seduction between two best friends goes deliciously wrong in an irresistible Oxford Novel that brims with wit and sexual tension. Library Journal hails Layne’s work as exemplary contemporary romance.”

Brit Robbins knows that dating in New York City is hard—she just hoped to have it mastered by age thirty. But after yet another promising suitor says they have no sparks, Brit decides it’s time to torch her dating game and try a new plan. And who better to coach Brit through the art of seduction than the guy who first gave her the “let’s be friends” card?

Hunter Cross has always figured there’s nothing his best friend Brit can do to surprise him. But Brit’s request is a surprise he doesn’t see coming—and one he’s definitely not prepared for. Hunter and Brit have always been careful to keep things perfectly platonic, but the fake dates and faux flirting are starting to feel like the real deal. And soon Hunter realizes he has taught Brit too well. Not only has she become an expert at seduction, the man becoming thoroughly seduced is him.

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

I Think I Love You will be available July 10, 2018. 

To be honest, the synopsis for I Think I Love You almost scared me off. Anything where the plot sounds like it’s centered around a physical relationship is not generally my thing. However, I’ve learned that when it comes to a Lauren Layne book, it’s always best to give her the benefit of the doubt and I’m once again glad I did. While there were a few of the too-graphic scenes I don’t really appreciate, there weren’t more than her other books I’ve read have had.

One of my favorite Romance tropes is Friends-to-More and I Think I Love You utilized it really well. I loved Brit and Hunter’s friendship. I’m really glad that we got to see them together as friends before they really began to fall for each other. I was expecting the “lessons in seduction” to be kind of cringe-worthy and they really weren’t. It was mostly Hunter reinforcing to Brit that there wasn’t anything wrong with her and she just needed to be relax and be herself.

This is the last book in the Oxford series, which is also connected to another book series from Layne. However, this is the first book from either series I’ve read. There were a lot of side characters that were kind of hard for me to keep track of, being unfamiliar with the couples from the previous books, but I think fans of the series will be pretty happy with the cameos. They did make me want to go back and read some of the books I’ve missed.

Overall, I really enjoyed I Think I Love You. It was a quick, cute read (I read it in a day) with likable characters. Lauren Layne continues to be one of my favorite Romance authors and I’m really looking forward to whatever she writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: A Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder #10) by Linda Castillo

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A deadly fire exposes the dark side of Amish life in A Gathering of Secrets, a harrowing new thriller in the New York Times bestselling series by Linda Castillo.

When a historic barn burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. At first, it looks like an accident, but when the body of eighteen-year-old Daniel Gingerich is found inside—burned alive—Kate suspects murder. Who would want a well-liked, hardworking young Amish man dead? Kate delves into the investigation only to find herself stonewalled by the community to which she once belonged. Is their silence a result of the Amish tenet of separation? Or is this peaceful and deeply religious community conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about? Kate doubles down only to discover a plethora of secrets and a chilling series of crimes that shatters everything she thought she knew about her Amish roots—and herself.

As Kate wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past and an unthinkable possibility.

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

A Gathering of Secrets will be available July 10, 2018.

Sometimes when a series has been around for awhile, the characters and the stories seem to get a little stale. That is not the case with the Kate Burkholder series. We are ten books in and I still enjoy it just as much as I did the beginning of the series.

I thought A Gathering of Secrets was a very well done procedural. As with most cases, there is a lot more going on than first suspected and the case becomes really personal for Kate, reminding her of things from her past she thought she moved on from. I also thought these elements were pretty timely to what’s going on in the world today. The pace was really steady with new clues revealed in every chapter. There were a few red herrings here and there, but everything about the resolution of the mystery made sense.  I suspected so many characters and it took me about as long as it did Kate to figure things out.

There are a couple of big character developments in this book. One with a beloved side character and one with Kate and Tomasetti. One of the only things I haven’t liked about the last few books in this series is that there isn’t as much Tomasetti as in the beginning. Now that he and Kate are involved, it makes working cases together a little trickier and since the romance is not front and center his role has been reduced. While I do wish we would’ve gotten a little more of him in this installment (I will never stop wanting more Tomasetti), it made me appreciate what we did get even more. He is such a great partner for Kate and I’m looking forward to watching their relationship develop even more in future books.

Overall, I really enjoyed A Gathering of Secrets. I thought the mystery was so well done and I found the book hard to put down. The story takes place in a fictional town in a real county that’s close to where I grew up and it’s always fun to recognize the locations mentioned (this one included the venue I had my junior prom at!). I definitely recommend this series to Mystery fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars