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

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit.

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

Girls’ Night Out will be available July 24, 2018. 

Well, I really did not care for this book. Unlikable characters and an entirely predictable plot made it a struggle to complete and I wish I didn’t waste my time on it.

The synopsis for Girls’ Night Out makes the story seem much more interesting than it actually is. There are no earth shattering secrets revealed and really no suspense. I’ve read some reviews talking about the great twist ending and I am here to tell you that is false. If you are looking for a really character-driven novel about insufferable women not getting along, then this book is for you. If you’re looking for mystery and suspense and some shocking twists, you should probably take a hard pass on this one.

Ashley was a very selfish, very self-indulgent character. While she seemed to have good intentions, her selfishness was still at the root of all her actions. It was very hard to feel bad for the beautiful, charming (aka: manipulative), rich, self-centered “victim”. Natalie was also not a likable character. She let herself be steamrolled by Ashley for pretty much their whole relationship and is only beginning to show her resentment towards it. I couldn’t help but feel like if she was just more honest with Ashley then maybe she could have talked some sense into her before things got so far gone. Lauren was basically a pointless character. I really don’t have any idea why she was even in the story, except to add just a tiny bit more drama and shine a brighter light on Ashley’s inability to maintain positive relationships. Lauren also has a scandalous addiction that is mentioned and then nothing really else happened with it. It didn’t portray how damaging it is or how it really affected her day to day life. It seemed like it was just something thrown in for shock value and felt a little irresponsible to me.

Overall, I just really didn’t like Girls’ Night Out. I feel like basically your guess from the first chapter pretty much ends up being true and it made a lot of the middle just seem pointless. I also am not a fan of the “amnesia/blackout” trope which the story heavily relied on. Maybe if the characters were a little more likable it would make up for the poor plot, but unfortunately they just made it worse. The only reason this is getting more than one star from is because I liked the use of multiple POVs and timelines.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

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

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“This is simply one of the nastiest and most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years. In short: I loved it, right down to the utterly chilling final line.” —Gillian Flynn

This is a love story. Mike’s love story.

Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.

It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.

It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…

A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

Well, this was a twisted little tale. Based off of my experience with similar books, I expected Mike to be your standard sociopath, but I didn’t really feel he was. He has some obvious mental health issues and while he did lack empathy for most people and situations, he didn’t lack ALL empathy. I mostly just felt bad for his poor, delusional life. However, I was pretty much on his side the whole time and I don’t even feel uncomfortable saying that.

I did not care for Verity at all. Never getting her POV, I’m not really sure how much of what she said was true. I think Mike read way too much into what she said and assigned meaning to her words that weren’t true, but she was still not a good person. I thought she was purposefully cruel where Mike just took all of his cues from her and didn’t seem to know better. I also thought for how well she knew him, she had to have known how some of her actions would seem to him. I kind of spent the whole book waiting for her to go down.

I felt like this book was much longer than it needed to be. Dude, we get it. You love V and you want to be with her and you’re playing an elaborate game. It just went around and around like that for far too long. Additionally, instead of traditional chapters, the story was told in three very large parts and I think that contributed to making it feel long. I did enjoy Part 3 of the book much more than the first two parts, though.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Our Kind of Cruelty, but I didn’t love it. I thought it went on a little too long and did not find the story quite as compelling as similar books. However, I did really like the final part of the story and I liked Mike. This book wouldn’t be for everyone, but there is definitely a niche audience for it that will love it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

 

Review: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

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

Baby Teeth will be available July 17, 2018.

The hype for Baby Teeth has been building for months. It’s mostly the reason I’ve kept putting off reading this because I was afraid my expectations were too high. And while it didn’t quite live up to the hype, it was still a pretty entertaining read.

It took me a little while to get into the story. The writing style, especially when it came to Hanna’s POV, took some getting used to. But once I really got into the story and could start to appreciate what a little psycho Hanna was I started to enjoy it. I became invested in the characters and really wanted to see how it would all turn out.

While I enjoyed seeing what crazy thing Hanna would do next, I did think it dragged on a little too long. The same type of things just kept happening again and again and there was a lot of needless description. Towards the end of the book the plot really began to advance and the power struggle between mother and daughter was really compelling to me and then it just abruptly ended. The ending felt more like it was leaving things open for a sequel than properly giving any type of closure to a stand-alone story. I found it disappointing that just when I was really getting into it, it was over.

Overall, Baby Teeth was certainly an entertaining read, but fell short of the hype for me. A little steadier pace and a less abrupt ending would have made it a little better, in my opinion. I don’t know if this book would be for everyone, but I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy it. I could definitely see it becoming a fun, creepy movie.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Date by Louise Jensen

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Something bad has happened to Alison Taylor.

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future.

By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her…

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

The Date will be available June 21, 2018.

I am so disappointed! I have seen nothing but praise for Louise Jensen books and I was very excited to finally try one. The beautiful cover, intriguing synopsis, and all the glowing reviews had me convinced The Date would be one of my favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, the hype going into this set my expectations way too high.

The whole temporary amnesia angle is never one of my favorite tropes, but I thought the Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness) set this one apart a bit. I have only read one other book that had a character afflicted with this so it still felt fresh. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with this disability and I felt the book did a pretty good job describing how debilitating it could be, but also how you can learn to live with it.

That is pretty much the end of what I liked about this book, though. I really had to push myself to finish this one. It might just be my current mood, but I just had a hard time getting into this. I found Ali kind of annoying, to be honest. I also never felt like we really got to know any of the other characters very well. Jensen did do a good job of keeping me guessing for awhile, making everyone in Ali’s life a bit suspicious, but as the book went on I started to really narrow down the villain to one character and I ended up being right. There was one red herring that made me right away guess the truth. I’m guessing that when that truth was revealed it was supposed to be the big shocking twist? It felt cliched to me and I can’t believe that many Mystery fans would be surprised by it.

Overall, The Date was disappointing to me. Maybe if my expectations weren’t quite so high I would have enjoyed it a bit more. But other than the Face Blindness plotline, the story was kind of cliched and I was completely underwhelmed by what was supposed to be the big twist. However, I seem to really be in the minority with this opinion, so it still may be worth trying.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars