Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

All’s fair in love and work. The first standalone romance by New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Beautiful Bastard) is a sexy, compulsively readable romantic comedy that dives headlong into the thrill and doubt of modern love.

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human? Whether these two Hollywood love/hatebirds get the storybook Hollywood ending or just a dramedy of epic proportions, you will get to enjoy Christina Lauren’s heartfelt, raucous, and hilarious romance style at its finest.

I had so much fun reading this book! It was so cute and funny. I was smiling my way throughout almost the whole thing.

Ok, first I need to talk about the part I found really relatable. Evie is 33, single, child-less, does not own her own home, and feels like she’s behind on life. Other than the fact that she has an actual career and not a dead-end job she hates, ahem, it was like she was describing all of my inner life panic. I loved this passage, which is basically all things I have thought at one point or another:

I try to ignore the pressure to be coupled up, but it’s everywhere…There’s my own biological clock, quietly yet persistently ticking away…But of course there’s that niggling voice suggesting I not care about any of it, that maybe I should give in and buy the cats instead. The problem is that I don’t like them. I may be a terrible married person someday, but I know for sure I would be an even worse cat lady.

“Evie?”

“Sorry…I was just trying to figure out whether I could still be a crazy cat lady without the actual animals.”

I loved all the characters in this book. Evie and Carter were great main characters and I really enjoyed all of their friends and family, as well.  I loved that the story was told in alternating 1st Person POV between Evie and Carter. I thought each voice was well done and really felt a connection to both of them. I thought they had great chemistry and I shipped them right away. This wasn’t really the Hate-to-Love story I was expecting. It was more Insta-Love-to-Hate-to-Love and I have to say it worked for me. While I loved Carter – Loved him – he did have several moments of great dickdom, so I was able to hate him when Evie did. But he was also so sweet and charming that I could easily fall back in love with him later.

As anyone who reads many of my reviews knows, I am not a fan of lots of graphic sexual content. I’ve only read one other book by this author duo before and based on that I knew going in that there was going to be some scenes like that. I think because I anticipated it (and was enjoying all the other aspects of the book), I found I didn’t mind it as much. There was actually less than I thought there was going to be.

The one thing (besides the graphic stuff) that kind of bothered me, though, is that I was expecting more behind-the-scenes information on Hollywood and working as an agent. Other than the mention of some actors and making big deals, there wasn’t really a lot of details. I felt like this could have been set in any other type of industry and the story would have come out the same. There is one scandalous work thing with Carter that happens towards the end of the book and I did not understand why it was such a big deal. I felt like it was something that only people in that business would understand and by that point in the book I should’ve been able to understand it, but I didn’t. I think my favorite thing when it came to the work atmosphere, though, is how Evie deals with sexism. It’s a real problem that many of us face and I thought for the most part Evie handled it with strength and class.

Overall, I really loved Hating You / Dating You. I loved the characters and the romance, and the relatability of being 33 and behind on life. Even though there are quite a bit of differences, it reminded me a lot of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, which I adored, and I think if you liked that one, you will like this one as well. I had pretty high expectations going into this and I’m really happy to say that they were met. I can see myself re-reading this a lot in the future. I definitely recommend this one to Romance fans!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

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

Sweet Briar Cottage will be available June 13, 2017.

I’ve had my up and downs with Denise Hunter books, but I have to say I loved this one. It’s my favorite one of hers I’ve read so far.

Noah decided to propose to Josephine after only a few months of dating, despite the warnings of his family and friends. When his marriage ends not too long after it started, it seems the warnings were right. After being apart for over a year Noah finds out the divorce was never finalized and he is, in fact, still married. Since Josephine feels responsible for the mix up she decides to speed things along to fix it by taking the new paperwork up the mountain to Noah’s new ranch. A broken down car and freak spring snowstorm later and they’re stuck together, all alone.

A problem I have with a lot of books by this author is that I find the female lead really unlikable. Thankfully this was not the case with Josephine. While she did make some decisions that frustrated me at times, I feel like her behavior made sense due to her background. I liked that she had reached the point in her life where she was dealing with her past and trying to understand why she did the things she did and become a better person, even though she still lived with a lot of doubts. I thought she was really realistically portrayed. I really liked Noah, as well. Though he had been really hurt by Josephine, he still cared about her and looked out for her when it counted.

I really liked how the romance played out in the story. It wasn’t the typical Contemporary read with lots of “cute” moments (though, of course, there were a couple). It was a more serious love that faced a lot of struggles. We go back and forth between the present and the past. Interspersed with the main story we see Josephine’s childhood and when she and Noah met and started dating. We see Noah’s absolute certainty and Josephine’s tenuous hope at the beginning of their relationship. I liked watching as their hard feelings and fears began to fade while they were stuck together. While I think it’s pretty obvious what broke up their marriage, the details don’t actually come out until late in the story and I kind of wish it would’ve happened a little earlier. I did really like the whole conversation they eventually had surrounding it, though. The one thing I didn’t really like about the romance was that Noah is very strong in his faith and pursued Josephine really hard even though she wasn’t. I’m not a fan of the whole “Evangelism Dating” thing and I don’t think it’s realistic that Noah would rush into marriage with someone who barely seemed to share his faith.

There is also a message of unconditional love woven into the story. Though Josephine had wanted to test Noah to see if he could love her no matter what, it’s really the promise of God’s unconditional love that she needed to accept. I felt that the message was written well into the story and didn’t come across as “preachy.”

Overall, I really enjoyed Sweetbriar Cottage. I liked the characters, the story, the romance, and the message of God’s love. I’ve read a lot of Denise Hunter’s books and this one is definitely my new favorite and I would recommend it to fans of Contemporary Romance and Inspirational Romance.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Ragdoll (Detective William Fawkes #1) by Daniel Cole

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

I read a couple of outstanding reviews for Ragdoll that gave me very high expectations and I am very happy to say that the book definitely lived up to them! I loved pretty much every second of reading this book.

The concept was definitely interesting and twisted. A corpse comprised of body parts from six different people is found. Then a letter is delivered with a list of six more future victims – and the date on which they will die. It was really fascinating to watch the case unfold and figure out who the body parts belonged to and how they all connect to each other and to the possible future victims. They reason behind it all was a great development, too.

I loved the characters. They weren’t always lovable, sometimes they were more love-to-hate, but I enjoyed reading about all of them. William Oliver Layton-Fawkes (Wolf) was such a wonderfully complicated character. I loved his determination and stubbornness and his sense of humor. Baxter was mostly of the love-to-hate variety for me, but she was also kind of complicated and interesting. I loved, loved, loved Edmunds! He was really smart and kind and had a bit of the wide-eyed innocent thing going on so it was even more interesting to see how he evolves as the case goes on. I adored him.

I thought the writing was really great, too. I was surprised this is Cole’s debut book. The writing is smart and surprising and it did not rely on big twists for shock value (nothing against big twists – I love them – but it’s nice to see a mystery not have to need them). It had a few smaller, clever twists and turns, but none of them felt out of left field. There was also a lot of humor in this book that I was not expecting at all. I felt like it was a little more prominent in the beginning of the book than the end, but it was kind of wry and irreverent and I loved it.

Overall, I just loved Ragdoll. I loved the story, characters, and writing. The only thing that I didn’t love quite as much as the rest of it was the ending. I would have liked an epilogue. However, this is going to be a series so I can forgive it for not having one. It ended in such a way that I have no idea how the next book will go, but I can’t wait to find out! Daniel Cole has definitely made his way on to my favorite authors list and I really recommend this to mystery lovers.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

 

Review: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

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

When It’s Real will be available May 30, 2017.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started reading this book, but I don’t think I was expecting to love it as much as I did. But, I loved it! It was so cute and fun and was a well done Fake-Relationship story (which we all know are my favorite kind).

I thought both Vaughn and Oakley were likable characters. Oakley definitely had his egotistical jerk moments, but we see way more of him being sweet and funny and sometimes vulnerable. I liked Vaughn, but had to remind myself a few times when she did something or reacted to something in a way that annoyed me that she’s only 17. But, seriously, as far as YA heroines go, she was a pretty level headed one. I also really liked Vaughn’s family and Oak’s bodyguard.

This book had all the things I love in a good Fake-Relationship story. I loved the awkwardness of hammering out the terms of the contract and the initial antagonism between Vaugh and Oakley. I loved their fake date outings and how they slowly started to become friends and then more. I thought they were so sweet together (even though things did almost get a little too sappy at times) and I shipped them hard. After reading The Royals series, which I thought was far too explicit for YA, I was a little concerned about how graphic the sexual content would be in this one. And though there was still a little more than I prefer for YA, it wasn’t very graphic and I liked that the their feelings for each other were highlighted over the physicality. There was also some underage drinking and casual drug use, but it was also much less than The Royals series and more YA appropriate (if those things are ever appropriate for YA).

Overall, I really enjoyed When It’s Real. The writing was addictive and I never wanted to put it down. It was funny and sweet and I just had so much fun reading about Vaughn and Oakley. There was one thing, though, that kind of brought my reading experience down and it’s not the book’s fault. The e-ARC I received had some major issues on my Nook with missing text – often paragraphs at a time. I hate to even mention that because it obviously won’t be an issue with the finished copy (and I did find a solution by downloading a copy for the Kindle app for my phone so I could find the text missing from my Nook), but it kind of cast a shadow over the whole thing for me.  However, as you can tell, I still loved the story. I definitely recommend it to YA Contemporary fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

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

Seeking Mansfield will be available 5/16/17.

I love a good Jane Austen re-telling and I haven’t read any based on Mansfield Park, so picking this book up was a no brainer. It’s been such a long time since I read Mansfield Park that I can’t really comment on how faithful it is to the source material. I do know that the basic structure of it is similar and reading this made me really want to go back and re-read Mansfield Park.

I really liked both Finley and Oliver. I loved their friendship and how they always supported each other. I loved the slow burn romance between them, too. We get both of their POVs throughout the story. Normally when we get dual POVs and find out that both characters have feelings for each other that they think are unrequited it drives me crazy. It often takes away a lot of the tension. However, I really enjoyed getting both perspectives here. I think that I could have ended up disliking Oliver a bit without his thought process of how he was justifying his actions. Instead I thought he was pretty adorable, even if he frustrated me at times.

I loved “uncle” Thomas and how the parents in this book were present. There were consequences for bad behavior and guidance when needed. I thought the other side characters – Harlan and Emma Crawford (Hollywood actors and new neighbors) and Tate and Juliette (Oliver’s brother and sister) were all fairly well developed, though I would’ve liked a little more of Oliver’s siblings. From what I remember of the Crawfords from Mansfield Park I thought Harlan and Emma were really well done, though maybe a little more likable here (but don’t worry, not that likable).

I thought the writing was kind of addictive. Even though it was a pretty character-driven plot and the pace was a little on the slow side, I just didn’t want to stop reading it. My only real complaint is that it got a little too teen-angsty for me at times.

Overall, I really enjoying Seeking Mansfield. I liked the characters and the romance and the message of self-worth and standing up for yourself. It was an easy and addicting read. Though I thought the middle of the story dragged a little bit with too much teen angst, it did pick back up and I really enjoyed it. I think fans of Mansfield Park would be happy to read this re-telling, as would YA Contemporary fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

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

I Found You will be available April 25, 2017.

This is only my second book by Lisa Jewell and I am once again wondering why I haven’t read more from her? Her writing is so addictive and the way she creates so much tension without a very fast pace or big twists just seems effortless.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of having so many characters set in different locations, as well as a timeline from the past. While I am a fan of alternate timelines, I usually like them involving all the same characters and I wasn’t sure how it would play into the central story. Of course Jewell was able to weave together the characters, locations, and timelines masterfully. It does not take long at all to know how the past timeline and characters fit into the present, but there is still a bit of mystery into the players. I thought Jewell did a good job of keeping me guessing and second guessing every time I thought I had it all figured out.

I thought the characters were very well done and well-developed. I liked Alice and her kids and even her dogs, “Frank”, and Gray and Kirsty and their family. I did think that Gray seemed a little bit more of a jealous boyfriend than protective brother at times, though, and it made me a little uncomfortable. However, there was nothing to worry about on that front. I really didn’t care for Lily, the young wife who’s husband goes missing. Her behavior just really rubbed me the wrong way and I had a hard time feeling sorry for her position when she married a much older man after so little time. I found Mark, Kirsty’s admirer who Gray doesn’t trust, to be kind of intriguing and then kind of terrifying. Yet another book where Jewell’s portrayal of teenage behavior scares the crap out of me.

Overall, I really enjoyed I Found You. It’s emotional and intriguing and I could hardly put it down. I thought Jewell did an excellent job of juggling the characters and timelines. I definitely recommend this book and really look forward to reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars

Review: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin’s baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

I received an ARC from the publisher via a Good Reads Giveaway. This does not impact my review.

This is my first Lisa Scottoline book and it definitely won’t be my last. The writing was a good mix of mystery and character development and it was really hard to put down.

In the beginning of the book we meet Chris Brennan, who is interviewing for a teaching position. We find out right away that Chris isn’t his real name and all the details of his life he’s sharing are a lie. His plans are slowly unraveled, though we only learn the “what”, not the “why” in the “Step One” section of the book, which is broken up into three steps. I really enjoyed how much Chris’s actions creeped me out. Then there is a nice twist once we get to Step Two that I was not suspecting at all. I love when books can surprise me like that. The only problem is that I don’t really feel like I can talk about it because it would be a big spoiler and I would hate to take the surprise away from other readers. I’ll just say the mystery continues, though with a slightly different focus, and I enjoyed it, though it did seem a little unbelievable at times.

We also get the POV from three mother’s of the students/baseball players Chris initially targets. Mindy is wealthy, mother to popular Evan, and wife of a surgeon who she believes is cheating on her…again. Mindy was kind of hard to like, but as we got to know her more and see what she had to put up with at home I became more forgiving towards her. Susan is a bit of a workaholic, newly widowed, and her two sons are going off the rails a bit after the death of their father. I liked Susan’s overall character arc the most of the three women, but I didn’t always feel like her POV was relevant to the story. Heather is the underemployed single mother of Jordan, a shy kid who is new to varsity baseball, and develops a bit of a crush on Chris.

I thought it was an interesting choice to go with the POV of the mothers instead of their sons, which you think would be a little more relevant to Chris’s plans. However, I really liked it. It helped keep the kids a bit of a mystery while slowly revealing reasons from their home life why they might be the one Chris is looking for.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading One Perfect Lie. It had likable characters and a good mystery. There were a couple times it got a little unbelievable and the dialogue a little cheesy, but for the most part I thought the writing was really good. It might be more of a 3.5 for me, but because there were several surprises that I did not see coming I’m bumping it up to 4. I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars