Review: Now That You Mention it by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter–a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was–Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family.

But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

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

Now That You Mention It will be available December 26, 2017.

I have been a fan of Kristan Higgins for years now and have read all of her books – most of them multiple times. Whenever I need a pick-me-up her books do the trick. I don’t read a lot of straight up Romance books so she has become my go-to when that’s what I’m in the mood for. Her last few books, though, have moved out of the Romance category and more into Women’s Fiction. While the books have obviously still been up to the standard I expect out of Higgins, they weren’t quite the light and fluffy feel good stories I was used to getting and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Even though Now That You Mention It feels a lot more serious than most her other books, it still ended up being exactly the book I needed right now. Higgins still made me happy and made me feel and I quite loved this book.

The character development was really well done. The story was told in Nora’s 1st person POV and I really felt a connection to her. I identified a lot with her teenage self, as well. I felt like she grew a lot throughout the novel and I was rooting for her every step of the way. I loved her growing relationships with her mother, her niece, the daughter of some of her old classmates, an old friend, and her new love interest, Sullivan. I loved Sullivan so much!  He was so sweet and a great father. I also liked how his severe hearing loss was dealt with. My mother works with the deaf and hard of hearing and I always find it interesting when a deaf/HOA person is represented in fiction. The romance did play a much smaller role in the story than I was expecting, but it just made me love it even more.

Overall, I really loved Now That You Mention It. Kristian Higgins is really one of my favorite authors and while there was a lot of her trademark style in this book, I also felt like she went outside of her comfort zone and stretched a little more as an author. While I will always hope she writes some more of the light and fluffy romances I have come to love from her, I will no longer be disappointed to see she has something different coming out. I found this compulsively readable and did not want to put it down. The only complaint I really have is that I felt the end was a little too rushed. Still, I would definitely recommend this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

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

The Chalk Man will be available January 9, 2018

For me, The Chalk Man, is a perfect example of how hype can ruin your reading experience. I have seen several absolutely glowing reviews of this book and I was prepared for it to be one of my new favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, it fell far short of my expectations.

Let’s start with what I did like. I really like Tudor’s writing style. This is the author’s debut novel and her writing already feels distinctive. I also am a big fan of multiple timelines and I thought it was done pretty well here.

The story was told in Eddie’s 1st person POV and I wish I could say that gave me a connection to him, but it didn’t. I never really cared that much about him. He was basically the only character in the book that had much character development and it just didn’t really do it for me. I didn’t care about his childhood friends in either timeline or his odd relationship with his lodger, Chloe.

Even though I liked the writing, I felt bored a great deal of the time. Things are revealed very, very slowly and don’t pick up until close to the end. There is a nice little twist at the end, but I felt that there were so many clues dropped into the backstory to make sure the twist made sense that it did not even come as a big surprise. I also figured out the resolution to the main mystery awhile before it was revealed.

Overall, The Chalk Man was not a bad book, but it definitely fell short of the hype for me. The slow pace, characters I didn’t really care about, and a twist with very little pay-off left me pretty disappointed. However, the author’s writing style is pretty much what made this book for me and I know I will be reading more from her in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe–a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

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

Blue Ridge Sunrise will be available 11/7/17. 

I can’t think of a book that I have gone back and forth so much on as I did this book. For awhile I was really loving it. Then I was really annoyed at a turn of events. Then I loved it again. Then I was annoyed again. Then it picked up a little bit again at the end.

I was immediately drawn in to Zoe and Cruz and their second-chance romance storyline. As with most of Hunter’s leading ladies, I found Zoe kind of hard to like, but she did grow throughout the story. I, of course, loved Cruz. I also liked Zoe’s brother, Brady, and her best friend, Hope (I’m anticipating them to be lead characters in a future book in this series). The second part of the book is a flash back to when Zoe and Cruz started dating. I’m a big fan of multiple timeline storytelling and I loved watching those two get together.

As I mentioned above, after loving the book for awhile, something happened that really annoyed me. This is just personal preference, but I really, really dislike any romance trope that involves babies/kids. It just brings my whole enjoyment of a book way down. Another thing that I really dislike in books is when one small miscommunication is the main source of conflict and just one honest conversation would clear everything up. It drives me crazy to read a whole book like that.

Thankfully, the miscommunication was cleared up much more quickly than I anticipated. I was able to get back on the Cruz and Zoe ship and enjoy myself again. I liked watching them grow closer as they worked together to get the peach market up and running. However, Zoe’s old boyfriend Kyle is still not entirely out of the picture. Zoe decides to do something so annoyingly frustrating to remedy that and I found my enjoyment disappearing again. Things did work out in the end, though, with a nice lesson in faith tacked on.

Overall, Blue Ridge Sunrise was just a little uneven for me. While I did really enjoy Zoe and Cruz’s relationship, some romance tropes that I don’t really like were employed and kind of dampened my experience. I know that some people really love those type of storylines though, so I can see many readers eating the whole thing up with a smile. I also thought that for being Christian Fiction it was really light on the Christian. Again, not something that will bother everybody. This wasn’t my favorite Denise Hunter book, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I liked it enough that I want to continue the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Charlotte “Charlie” Donovan knows what she wants for Christmas: Teo Ortiz. He’s a star athlete, in the National Honor Society, invited to every party, and contributes to the school paper (where Charlie is co-editor). Basically, he’s exactly the type of guy Charlie’s looking for. The only problem—he barely knows she exists.

But Charlie has a plan: Rig the paper’s Secret Santa and win his heart with five perfect gifts. Enter J.D. Ortiz—Teo’s cousin, and possibly the most annoying person on the planet. He’s easy going, laid back, unorganized, and spontaneous—the exact opposite of Charlie (and Teo). But he knows what Teo wants, so she’s stuck with him.

Yet the more time Charlie spends with J.D. the more she starts to wonder: Does she really know what, or rather who, she wants for Christmas?

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

What I Liked:

-There are a lot of YA books out there that I think are far too adult for the age group they’re marketed in, but I didn’t have that problem with this book. It seems geared more towards the younger end of the YA spectrum and is pretty clean. It’s the perfect amount of light and fluffy for a fun Christmas read.

-I liked the characters. Charlie is very Type A and likes to be in control, but she means well. Her best friend Morgan did a good job of balancing her out. JD is the polar opposite of Charlie, of course, and they often butt heads. As they come to spend more time with each other they begin to understand each other better and become friends. They had some sweet moments together and I shipped them.

-I love that cover! There’s an ugly Christmas sweater party in the book so it even ties in to the story well.

-Though I generally don’t like anything Holiday related until after Thanksgiving, this book did get me into the Holiday mood. I enjoyed all the holiday baking and liked the Secret Santa idea.

What Didn’t Quite Work for Me:

-I couldn’t really get on board with Charlie’s sudden crush on Teo. She basically just knew some stats on him when she decided he was The One. The way she read way too much into every interaction she had with Teo did remind me of being in high school, but it also kind of frustrated me. I also got frustrated by how clueless she was when it came to JD. A lot of the moments between them I thought were so sweet were kind of lost on her.

-I thought the end was  a little too abrupt. Things worked out very easily, very quickly for Charlie once she realized who she really wanted and I would’ve liked her to have to work a little bit harder for the happy ending.

Overall:

Overall, I enjoyed My New Crush Gave to Me. It was light and cute with likeable characters, even if Charlie was frustrating sometimes. I definitely recommend it to fans of YA Contemporary holiday reads.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Angel (DS Imogen Grey #3) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

THE TRUTH WON’T STAY LOCKED UP FOREVER

When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he really deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge.

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

In the past couple of weeks I have read all three Imogen Grey books and it’s definitely become one of my favorite series. Katerina Diamond has made her way onto my auto-buy list.

As with the first two books in the series, there is a lot going on in this story. There are several mysteries with connecting threads and Diamond really weaves them together effortlessly. I never felt confused and even though I didn’t know how things would come together, I knew that they would. Another thing I love about Diamond’s writing is that even though she has very intricate plotlines, she does not sacrifice any character development. I feel like many books focus on one or the other, but she really pulls off both. Even though it means that the books are a little longer than I usually like to read, I don’t mind the length because of how engrossed in the story I am.

In The Secret we got a lot of Imogen’s background and in The Angel we get more of Adrian’s. He’s not a perfect person by any means, but I adore him. He’s gone through a lot in his life, and in this book, and I really admire how he still manages to just keep going. I love his partnership with Imogen and how much they trust each other and are there for each other. I still like that their friendship is platonic, though I wouldn’t mind if it moves in a different direction in the future. Which brings me to Dean. I absolutely loved Dean in The Secret and I have to say he was one of the reasons I was anticipating this books so much. His relationship with Imogen is very complicated and it might very well be a circumstance where love is not enough to make it work, but I’m still shipping these two hard.

The other POV we get in this book is Gabriel, a young, slightly rebellious, guy who is really a sweet kid at heart. He gets arrested for inadvertently killing  a man from a fire he started and winds up in jail. As you may expect, a young cute guy in prison attracts the wrong kind of attention. I felt so, so bad for all that Gabriel had to go through, but I really liked getting his POV and seeing how he grew as a person because of it.

Overall, I just really loved The Angel. Katerina Diamond weaves together a complex mystery with really compelling characters. I felt like this book was a little less dark than the first two in the series and I liked that. I also like that justice is always served in her books, though there is often a bit of a moral grey area included. This series has become one of my favorites and I’m really going to miss Imogen and Adrian until their next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her dad and little brother.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32 and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

MELISSA DE LA CRUZ’s next adult novel will be a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

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

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe will be available October 17, 2017.

I love a good holiday romance and I love Pride and Prejudice re-tellings, so Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe looked like it would be perfect for me. While it was a fun read, it ended up falling short of my (pretty high) expectations.

I loved the idea of a gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice. I can’t think of any other re-tellings I’ve read that took that angle. I also like the idea of getting Darcy’s POV instead of Elizabeth’s (or Luke’s, in this case). Unfortunately I felt like this was more of an “inspired by” then a true re-telling. If it wasn’t for the names of the characters (Darcy Fitzwilliam, Bingley Charles, Luke Bennett) and the title of the book I’m not really sure if I would’ve even noticed that it was supposed to be a re-telling. That said, the story wasn’t bad. It was a very quick and easy read and had many cute or funny moments.

Darcy was pretty unlikable, which was ok in the beginning because she was kind of supposed to be. However, I don’t think she ever became more likable. Even though she was supposed to be this brilliant, successful woman, she was super immature and self-centered and kind of oblivious. There’s several scenes where she explains how she’s just super confident and driven, and not snobby or selfish, but honestly I just didn’t buy it. I was rooting for her, though, and she did make some strides when it came to her family. Luke was more likable, but we actually don’t get a lot of him. There is not very much time spent with Luke and Darcy together before they are officially together, so I had a hard time really shipping them as a couple. We do get more of them together in the end, which I liked.

One thing that does kind of bug me, which is not the book’s fault, is that the synopsis sounds pretty different than the actual story. Darcy doesn’t really date the type of guys mentioned, I don’t recall a mention of multiple cell phones, and she comes home to see her mom, despite her estranged father and three brothers she’s never really liked. Luke is described as less ambitious than Darcy, but I don’t think he was ever referred to as a slacker. The “fall into bed” statement is also misleading. There were also some continuity issues within the story that bothered me. I’m hoping that those are just ARC issues, though, and will be ironed out in the finished copy.

Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a cute, quick, and easy read. I loved the concept for the book even though it didn’t quite live up to it’s potential. I think hard core Pride and Prejudice fans will find it a little lacking, but if you’re looking for a nice holiday romance I would recommend checking this out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Secret (DS Imogen Grey #2) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW IS A LIE…

Can you keep a secret? Your life depends on it…

Bridget Reid has a secret, one that could get her killed… If she can escape the man who is keeping her locked in a basement bedroom.

DS Imogen Grey is good at keeping secrets – truths she’d never reveal to her colleagues at Exeter Police. She worked hard to get where she is – she nearly died for it. Now her past is catching up with her…

As DS Grey and her partner DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a terrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder. And they realise that some secrets are better left buried…

Another fantastic book I discovered through Annie @ The MissteryThe Secret is a well-plotted, smartly written, super dark novel and I enjoyed every minute of it.

This is the second book in a series, but I felt it stood really well on it’s own since I didn’t read the first book and I didn’t feel lost at all like I was afraid of. Detectives Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles are newly re-united partners investigating a double murder and a missing person. As the case progresses it begins to tie back to one of Imogen’s past cases from two years prior, one that forced her to transfer to another department. I really loved the multiple timeline storytelling. It is told by multiple POVs in the Present, 2 Years Ago, and a POV from an anonymous boy as he grows up. I loved trying to figure out who all the characters were in the anonymous POV and how everything from the past fit into the present. I love that I didn’t figure everything out half-way in like I do with so many other books in this genre.

Imogen was kind of a hard character to like most of the time, but I did enjoy her overall. I really loved her partner, Adrian! Though he was definitely not a perfect person, he was sweet and protective and smart. I loved how his relationship with Imogen was really platonic, too. I also very much loved Dean, who is a bit of an anti-hero here. At first I was a little annoyed about Imogen’s attraction to him, but I very quickly got on board with it. Love him!

Overall, I really liked The Secret. There was so much going on in it, but I felt like it was well paced and fit together really well. It does have pretty dark subject matter – I actually gasped out loud at one part and that never happens anymore – but it was balanced well enough that it’s not one of those books that just depresses you when you’re done with it. The only thing I didn’t really like was that I felt the ending was a little too open-ended. While the case was solved, there were still some loose ends that weren’t tied up. I’m sure they will be in the next book, though, which I am very excited to read.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars