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: The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Charlie Donlea, one of the most original new voices in suspense, returns with a haunting novel, laden with twists and high tension, about two abducted girls one who returns, one who doesn t and the forensics expert searching for answers.

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.

I am usually very stingy when it comes to buying books – especially when it’s by an author I’ve never read before. However, I have seen several really great review for The Girl Who Was Taken, so when I saw the ebook was on sale it seemed like a no brainer to snatch it up. Unfortunately, I wish I would’ve waited for it to come to the library. It wasn’t a bad book, but it definitely didn’t live up to my expectations.

It took quite awhile for me to really get into the story. While the POV shifted between several characters, the main character was Medical-Examiner-in-training Livia. So much of Livia’s POV was taken up by really clinical details about autopsies and other medical things. While I appreciate the author’s very thorough research, it was just way too much for me. I felt kind of ambivalent towards her as a character. I felt like she had no personality. She had some obvious empathy, but often times she came off as kind of robotic. I also thought it was too convenient in how easy her investigation went. Everything just kind of worked out and led her to the next clue.

In addition to the shifting POV, the timeline shifted as well. I think that the flashback chapters to what led up to the night Megan and Nicole went missing is where the book really shined. The characters seemed a lot more developed and that’s where a lot of the creepy factor came in, which I enjoyed. I was always a little disappointed when the chapters shifted back to the present.

Overall, The Girl Who Was Taken was just ok for me. I thought the overall mystery was pretty well done. I had several suspects and while the culprit ended up being one of them, it wasn’t one of my top suspects. I really enjoyed the flashback chapters, as well. However the lack of personality of the main character, the overly clinical descriptions, and the somewhat open ending left me feeling underwhelmed and a little disappointed that I spent money on this.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

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

The Names They Gave Us will be available May 16, 2017.

When I think of Emery Lord books, I think of trying too hard.  Even though I’ve liked some of her other books (especially The Start of Me and You), I always feel like she just tries way too hard to be deep and meaningful. It comes across a little self-indulgent and melodramatic to me. While this book did have cute, funny, and even poignant moments, it still felt like it was trying too hard.

I felt like I should’ve found Lucy really relatable (pastor kids unite!), but I never fully connected with her. She was a mostly likable character, though. I mostly liked her group of friends at camp, though I wish they would’ve been developed just a bit more. I did really love Jones, Lucy’s new love interest. He was so sweet and I enjoyed pretty much every scene he was in. I also liked the camp setting and the kids there.

I have heard from people who are hesitant about this book because there is some religious content. If you are one of those people, I would say you might be slightly annoyed at times, but I don’t think it’s written in a way that will “ruin” the book for you. I have also heard from people who were very happy to see a “realistic” Christian character not be a complete psycho. To those people I would caution to not get too excited. Yes, the main character comes from a religious background and is not awful. However, this is NOT a Christian book and the overall message is not of Christian faith. There are definitely a few themes throughout that is congruent with the Christian faith, but at the end of the day the message is more one of universalism and the goodness of people. I mean, it’s still a hopeful message and is more than is in most YA, but I just want to caution my Christian friends.

Overall, The Names They Gave Us, was just ok for me. I felt like it was too long for what little was going on and a little repetitive and then it had a pretty abrupt ending. I did really enjoy Lucy and Jones’ slow burn romance, though. I think that Emery Lord fans will probably still enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 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: A Different Blue by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

The Spencer Hill Press release will have bonus content never before available.

Blue Echohawk doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn’t attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard, and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don’t know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can’t love you back might be impossible.

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

This version of A Different Blue with bonus material will be available May 30, 2017.

This book started out a little rough for me. I found Blue incredibly unlikable and mostly unrelatable. I was super bored with the history lessons and legends. And, most of all, I was uncomfortable with Blue’s growing relationship with her teacher. There were no big lines crossed or anything, but their friendship was still inappropriate for being teacher/student. Even though Wilson is only 22 (only a couple years older than Blue), he just seemed so much older and more mature. Thankfully, the book did become a lot better for me as it went on.

Once Blue graduated, I was much more able to get on board the Wilson-Blue ship. I started to really enjoy their friendship and slow burn romance. Wilson was so smart and sweet and protective. I loved him. He did seem just so much older than his age, though. I also really liked his sister, Tiffa, and her friendship with Blue.

I did really like the overall message of redemption and Blue’s journey. She became so much more likable as the book went on, even though there were still several moments where she frustrated me. I liked how she came to respect herself a little bit more and made conscious decisions to help her become a better person.

Overall, I liked A Different Blue, but I didn’t love it. While the overall message and the relationship between Wilson and Blue were good, it started out really rough for me. It also employed a couple of my least favorite romance tropes (teacher/student relationship and another one that I’m not going to share because it’s too spoilery). I was actually not a big fan of the bonus material – an epilogue featuring Blue and Wilson’s physical relationship and a chapter from Wilson’s POV from the first day of school. I liked getting Wilson’s POV, but hearing his initial reaction to Blue falls under the uncomfortable, inappropriate teacher/student thing. However, I am a fan of Harmon and her writing and am definitely planning on reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars