Review: What You Want to See (Roxane Weary #2) by Kristen Lepionka

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Read the synopsis on Good Reads:

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

What You Want to See will be available 5/1/18. 

I really enjoyed Kristen Lepionka’s debut book of the Roxane Weary series, The Last Place You Look, and I think I liked this one even better.

I’m not going to share the synopsis here because I think it gives way too much of the plot away. While I think it would be best to start with the first book in the series to have a better handle on Roxane’s relationships, romantic and otherwise, the mystery is self-contained to this book and could be read as a standalone. Roxane is a private investigator who recently closed a very high profile case. She’s taken a much more low-key job – trailing a possible cheating fiancé. The case spirals into something much more dangerous and Roxane finds herself caught up in the middle of it.

I really enjoyed the twisty mystery in this. There were just so many layers that kept being revealed. It had the potential to get really out of hand, but Lepionka juggled it all really well. In a lot of mysteries I read these days I have everything all figured out pretty early on, but this one kept me guessing. While there were a few things I might have predicted, there were lots of other things I didn’t. I kind of liked just reading it and being surprised, instead of trying to figure out every little thing. I thought the pacing was well done and there was never a time I felt like something drug on too long. I did think the ending was jut a tiny bit rushed, though, and thought there were a couple of loose ends that weren’t tied up quite as neatly as I would’ve liked them to have been.

I thought Roxane was a little more likable in this book, as well. She seems to be working on her alcohol issues (most of the time, anyways) and she appears a little more self-aware. She had some good character growth, which I appreciated. I’m still not thrilled with her romantic interests, though (yes, there’s two). I really, really disliked Catherine in the previous book. She just seemed like an awful person who was no good at all for Roxane. She was a little better and a little more self-aware, too, this time around, but I think she’s still technically married and I’m just not on that ship. I do like Tom, as a character, but he also is in a relationship with someone else. To be fair, there were not any real romantic moments between he and Roxane in this book, but there’s still obvious chemistry that seems a little inappropriate given his relationship status. If he breaks up with his girlfriend, though, I think I could really root for him to be with Roxane.

Overall, I really enjoyed What You Want to See. It was well-paced and well-written, with a really interesting mystery. I also love that this book is set in Columbus, OH and I recognized a lot of the areas mentioned. I definitely recommend this series to Mystery fans and am looking forward to reading more from Lepionka in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Prep meets Girls in White Dresses in Genevieve Sly Crane’s deliciously addictive, compulsively readable exploration of female friendship and coming of age that will appeal to anyone who has ever been curious about what goes on in a sorority house…

Margot is dead.

There’s a rumor she died because she couldn’t take the pressure of being a pledge. You may not ask what happened to her. It’s not your business. But it wasn’t a suicide, if you’re wondering.

Spring Fling will not be cancelled. The deposit is non-refundable. And Margot would have wanted the sisterhood to continue in her absence, if only to protect her sisters’ secrets: Shannon is the thinnest girl in the house (the other sisters hate her for it, but they know her sacrifice: she only uses the bathroom by the laundry room); Kyra has slept with twenty-nine boys since she started college (they are all different and all the same); Amanda is a virgin (her mincing gait and sloping posture give it away); and while half the sisters are too new to have known Margot, Deirdre remembers her—she always remembers.

With a keen sense of character and unflinching, observant prose, Crane exposes the undercurrents of tension in a world where perfection comes at a cost and the best things in life are painful—if not impossible—to acquire: Beauty. A mother’s love. And friendship…or at least the appearance of it.

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

Sorority will be available on May 1, 2018. 

I did not go to a college that had sororities (nor would I have tried to join one if there were), but I really enjoyed the show Greek, so that’s kind of what I was expecting from this book. However, Sorority was not at all like I anticipated. It did not really follow a typical plot structure, but was more shorter vignettes of different girls from the House. I was a little taken aback at first because that’s not generally something I like, but I found the writing so addictive that it didn’t end up bothering me that much.

The story was very character-driven. All the girls were a little hard to keep straight and I can’t say that any of them were that likable or redeemable, but I found a few of their stories kind of fascinating. Even for the ones I didn’t like as much, I found the writing compulsive enough to want to find out what happened. The downside of that, though, is that there is not really any conclusion to the story. Several of the characters we saw a few years after college, but even then their stories did not feel complete. Part of me really dislikes open-endings so this was hard for me. I also did not really understand what was happening at the end of the book.

Overall, once I got over my preconceived expectations I did like this book. I thought the writing was really addictive. I don’t think it will be for everyone, though. I think readers who really enjoy some in depth character study and don’t mind open-endings will really enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Ten years after her teenage daughter disappears, a woman crosses paths with a charming single father whose young child feels eerily familiar, in this evocative, suspenseful drama from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell—perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Liane Moriarty.

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?

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

Then She Was Gone will be available 4/24/18. 

Lisa Jewell does it again. I was so consumed with this story that I finished it in less than 24 hours.

Every time I read a book by Lisa Jewell I wonder why I have not read more from her. Her writing is so addictive that I never want to put the book down (and I very rarely did). She effortlessly weaves together past and present timelines and multiple POVs. I love how character-driven her stories are and Then She Was Gone was no exception.

The book focuses mainly on Laurel, a woman whose daughter has disappeared many years ago. She does not have a very good relationship with her remaining children and has been separated from her husband for awhile. When she finally gets some closure on the missing Ellie, she meets a charming man and finally begins to get her life back. When she discovers a connection between Ellie’s disappearance and Floyd’s young daughter she begins to investigate to try and figure out what really happened to her daughter.

I have to say that I did not find any part of the mystery that mysterious. It did not take me very long at all to figure out what happened to Ellie and how various characters connected to it. I didn’t really care that I wasn’t surprised, though.  The play of alternating timelines and how the information was revealed, as well as the character development really made up for any lack of twist.

Overall, I really enjoyed Then She Was Gone. Once I started it I never wanted to put it down. I loved the character development and the use of multiple POVs and timelines. Lisa Jewell is such a wonderful writer and I really need to start reading more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Well. I am glad I decided to wait for a library copy of this book instead of buying it. Despite being very excited for the continuation of this series (my love for Warner knows no bounds), I was a little cautious about it. I loved this series the first (several) times I read it, but the last time I tried re-reading it I felt like I had maybe outgrown it a little bit. I realized some of the things that happened – like basically destroying Adam’s character just to make sure that everyone would pick Warner in the love triangle debate – was kind of lazy. I was still looking forward to revisiting these characters, though, hoping that Mafi would make up for some of the things I had issues with. Unfortunately, it fell short of even my lowered expectations.

Let’s start with Juliette. I kind of hated her in this book. I felt like she had grown so much throughout the series into this really strong character, but here she was back to the whiny, self-centered Juliette of book 2. She had no idea what taking over as Supreme Commander means and we do not see her do anything but complain about how much mail she has to go through, go for leisurely walks with Kenji, and hook up with Warner. She is completely overcome with doubts, but gets angry any time someone tries to help her. NOTHING she did made any sense. She was so childish I couldn’t even feel sorry for her.

Then there’s her relationship with Warner. Warner, who has never been good about talking about his past. Warner, who has repeatedly shown her his insecurity in their relationship. Warner, whose father she just killed. When he discovers important information about her past and tells her about it, she blows up about the one piece of information he did know and hadn’t told her about beforehand. I thought in Ignite Me they started a very solid partnership and I was looking forward to seeing that grow, but they took several gigantic steps backwards. It just really annoyed me that lack of communication and childish behavior were the main sources of tension Mafi used to reboot this series. Instead of giving the characters new challenges and letting them continue to grow, she reverted them back to how they used to be and are going to make them re-learn all the same lessons we’ve already seen them go through. 

And can we talk about Castle for a minute? Juliette is the supreme commander and Castle still beckons her like a student to the principal’s office and she just goes and gets all nervous about whatever he has to say. Like, girl, you are in charge now! You don’t have to do what he tells you. And you can make him tell you the things he’s being evasive about. Also, all of sudden Castle knows everything about everything? I don’t buy it. Nothing in the past books made him come across so knowledgeable or connected. It just felt way too convenient.

There were a few things I liked, though. Adam got a personality change again and went back to being a nice guy. And he reaches out to Warner and I liked their scene together. For the most part, though, I feel like he’s outlived his usefulness to the story and he only had a couple of appearances. (The same goes for most of the Omega Point characters from the previous books, except for Castle and Kenji.) I also still love Warner. Even though his nonsense with Juliette annoyed me, I did feel like he grew in some ways in this book and was the only character to do so. The story is told in alternating first person POV between him and Juliette and I found myself kind of unable to care about Juliette’s chapters because I liked Warner’s so much more.

Overall, Restore Me left me extremely underwhelmed. It basically saved all plot development that didn’t have to do with relationship drama to the last couple chapters and then it rushed through them. I thought it was pretty lazy writing to just have all the characters revert to previous versions of themselves and repeating past drama. I’m really hoping that Mafi will come up with some fresher ideas in the next books, which I will still read – because Warner.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

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

The New Neighbors will be available April 10, 2018. 

I found The New Neighbors to be a pretty standard psychological thriller (and I’m using the word “thriller” loosely). The writing wasn’t bad, but I just found myself pretty underwhelmed with the plot and the characters.

I thought the synopsis sounded pretty intriguing. I thought the house and the neighborhood was going to provide a really creepy atmosphere. However, I don’t feel like the house played that big of a role. In the beginning there was a good deal of description of it, but I felt like after being told it was creepy a couple of times, that was kind of it. And the “grisly discovery in the attic” was a pretty big letdown, as well.

I’ve seen lots of reviews talking about the journal formatting, but it didn’t really work for me. In the first part of the book we get alternating 1st person POVs from Jack and Syd and we’re told they’re writing everything down so they can hand it over to the police. I was never sure if there were parts of those chapters that were supposed to be regular narrative or if everything we were reading was supposed to be a journal. With few exceptions, it just didn’t read like journal entries. It read as very straightforward regular narration. In the second half of the book they are done with the journaling and the style was not any different than the first half. I thought that Jack and Syd’s voices were very distinct in the very beginning, but as the book went on, they sounded exactly the same.

I didn’t think the “surprises” were done very well. A lot of things are alluded to throughout the book that are supposed to help build suspense, but when things were finally revealed I just didn’t find them to be very impactful or surprising. To be honest, I just felt let down by the direction the “mystery” went. I found the ending very underwhelming.

Overall, The New Neighbors was a little disappointing to me. The main idea and the writing itself weren’t bad, but the formatting, the characters, and the progression of the plot were lacking. I think people who don’t read a lot of this genre and like character-driven stories would probably enjoy this a little more.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

 

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

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

All the Beautiful Lies will be available April 3, 2018. 

This is one of those books where I feel like the synopsis doesn’t really describe the book that accurately. It didn’t bother me much, though, in this case because I found the book to be much better than what the synopsis makes it sound like.

All the Beautiful Lies is not a book with shocking twists, but many small reveals. There is one big reveal that might shock some readers that missed the clues early on about the identity of the killer, but I first suspected it at about 30%. I didn’t mind not being shocked by it, though, because I enjoyed everything leading up to it. The use of multiple timelines and POVs were really used effectively to build suspense and reveal things at the most impactful moments. I really never wanted to put the book down. I read the first half in pretty much one sitting.

None of the characters were very likable, but I did feel pretty invested in all of them. Poor, stupid Harry was probably my favorite. I felt so bad for what he was going through, but some of his decisions just frustrated me. I wish we would’ve gotten more of Alice’s POV in the present timeline. Her past timeline POVs were kind of fascinating as we learn how she became the person she is, but I would’ve liked to have heard what was going through her head during some of her interactions with Harry.

Overall, I really enjoyed All the Beautiful Lies. I loved the use of multiple timelines and POVs. The writing was really addictive and the book was hard to put down. This is my first book by Swanson and I’m planning on reading more from him in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

This scandalous chooseable-path romance novel demands you determine your own romantic adventure-and satisfy all your earthly desires along the way!

Endless scenarios of high romance, deep desire, and quivering…comedy await your tender caress in this chooseable path romance novel. You are the plucky but penniless heroine in the center of 19th-century society, the courtship season has begun, and your future is at hand…

*  Will you flip forward fetchingly to find love with the bantering baronet, Sir Benedict Granville?
*  Or turn the page to true love with the hardworking, handsome, horse-loving highlander, Captain Angus McTaggart?
*  Or perhaps you will chase through the chapters a good man gone mad, bad, and scandalous to know, in the arousing form of Lord Garraway Craven?
*  Or read recklessly on to take to the continent as the “traveling companion” of the spirited and adventuresome Lady Evangeline?
*  …or yet another intriguing fate?

Whether it’s forlorn orphans and fearsome werewolves, mistaken identities and swashbuckling swordfights, or long-lost lovers and pilfered Egyptian artifacts, every delightful twist and turn of the romance genre unfolds at your behest! Prepare to open your heart, open your mind, and open-this book.

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

My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel will be available 4/3/18. 

I love the concept of this book so much. I have very fond memories of the Choose Your Own Adventure books from childhood and I love the idea of it for adults.

If you are unfamiliar with the choose your own adventure concept, it is set up so that at the end of every scene you are given a choice of how you would like to proceed (which potential suitor you’d like to meet, whether to continue a conversation or walk away, whether to stay in a situation or leave it for a new adventure, etc.) and the corresponding page number to turn to.  I read through the book several times choosing different scenarios to follow and I feel like I only scratched the surface on the different possibilities.

While the concept was really fun, the plots were all pretty “trashy romance novel”-ish, which isn’t really my cup of tea. The tone was pretty tongue-in-cheek, though, which I enjoyed. I didn’t particularly like the main character, which is kind of ironic because it’s supposed to be me. Even though I got to always choose “my” path, I didn’t always like how she handled the choices.

Overall, I did enjoy My Lady’s Choosing. While the plot lines left a little to be desired, I loved the concept. I feel like I only read a few of the many possible scenarios and plan on picking it up again to try some of the other untraveled paths.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars