Review: Blitzed (Playbook #3) by Alexa Martin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Maxwell has finally met an opponent that he can’t best in this new football romance from the author of Fumbled.

According to Brynn Larson, Maxwell Lewis is more trouble than he’s worth. She doesn’t care if he’s a football god with a rock-hard body that brings most women to their knees. After an encounter that ends poorly, she’s not interested in giving him a second chance. The last thing Brynn expects is for him to turn up at her bar months later, hat in hand. It doesn’t matter if he brings more customers to her business–she’s still not going on a date with him.

Maxwell knows he made a mistake. He’d been waiting to make his move on Brynn since the day he laid eyes on her and he was finally ready to go for it until he screwed up. He wishes he could tell her the truth about what happened that night, but he just can’t. He can’t tell anyone, so he’ll make amends and hope she’ll forgive him.

Brynn’s not like other women, though. Playing for the Mustangs doesn’t impress her and gifts make her scoff. Max will have to bring his A game if he hopes to win her over.

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

Blitzed will be available December 3, 2019. 

I’ve really enjoyed the other books in the Playbook series and while I did like Blitzed, I didn’t think it was quite as good as the others were.

I have been looking forward to Brynn’s story for awhile now. I was glad we finally got to learn a little more about her, but she wasn’t as likable as I expected her to be. She was really hardworking and dedicated to her job and cared a lot about her friends and father, which are all good characteristics. But I also found her kind of shallow, materialistic, and a little pervy. She also had kind of extreme reactions to things that I found frustrating, especially when it came to the big final conflict. I found Maxwell more likable, but didn’t feel like we ever got to know him very well. I also liked seeing the characters from the previous books again, especially TK and Poppy.

There’s a bit of a mystery involving Maxwell’s relationship with his brother, Theo. Theo keeps popping up trying to find Maxwell and Maxwell just keeps telling Brynn not to talk to him. With how many times this is brought up, I thought the conclusion to that plotline deserved a little more attention than it got. It basically provided a couple chapter’s worth of unnecessary drama with Brynn and a small bit of commentary on a current social issue, and that’s it.

Overall, Blitzed was just ok for me. I did ship the romance between Brynn and Maxwell, but I wasn’t as into them as I were the other couples from previous books. This is still definitely worth the read for fans of the series, though, and I am looking forward to more from Martin.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must reenact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

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

Would Like to Meet will be available December 3, 2019. 

I loved this book so much!! It has been awhile since I’ve found myself smiling so much at a story, even laughing out loud at parts. Would Like to Meet is funny, sweet, ridiculously cute, and just so much fun.

I knew right from the first chapter – a classic meet cute gone horribly awry – that I was going to enjoy reading this story. Though there is much more to the book then the humorous meet cute failures, they were definitely my favorite parts. But I also found Evie a likable and relatable main character. I liked her group of close friends and loved Ben and Annette, the father and daughter she befriends on her meet cute journey. Evie’s boss, Monty, and Ezra/NOB, the temperamental screenwriter, also provided a good amount of humor and tension to the story.

Any good Rom-Com fan will probably guess how the story is going to turn out long before the final chapters, but it didn’t lessen the enjoyment for me. There were a few parts here and there that I felt dragged just a bit, but these are really the only complaints I can think of.

Overall, I loved Would Like to Meet. I loved the characters and the meet cutes and the humor. I also love the cover – though if you’re like me, you’ll need to take a second look to notice that Evie is tipping over her drink, which is perfect for the story. I found this to be an impressive debut from Winters and I am very eager to see whatever she comes up with next. This is definitely a must read for lovers of rom-com.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I am having such a hard time figuring out how I feel about this book. I’m just going to list it all out.

The Starless Sea was probably my most anticipated book of the year (I’m sure the same can be said for many of you, as well). In a year where most of my anticipated reads have left me terribly disappointed, I was super nervous to start it. However, I could tell right at the beginning that Morgenstern’s writing style was just as beautiful as I remembered it.

-The writing really was beautiful and magical and descriptive, all the things that helped make me fall in love with The Night Circus. There was just something missing for me, though. I think, despite how beautifully written it was, I never really got very invested in the story. It is a story within a story, within many stories. It’s hard to wrap my head around it and I’m not even going to try to explain it. The only parts I looked forward to were the chapters with Zachary Ezra Rawlins (his full name is used a lot). I kind of wanted to skim through all the other stories, but it didn’t take long to realize all the other stories were integral to the plot and you have to pay attention to them. Even if you don’t really understand some of them. Or maybe that’s just me?

-I did really like Zachary. I thought he was a very empathetic character and I was very interested to see what happened with him. However, he was the only character that I really cared about. Dorian was ok. Kat was ok, but seemed a little unnecessary? Allegra, Maribel, the Keeper, and the rest didn’t really do anything for me. I think my lack of connection with the characters kept me from having much of an emotional connection with the book.

-I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. It seemed a little too long at times and also not quite long enough. I didn’t care for the ending. I felt like I needed a little more “this is what happened to Zachary Ezra Rawlins” than what we got. I liked it, but not as much as The Night Circus and not as much as I was expecting to. However, I will definitely read whatever Morgenstern writes next, even if it takes another 8 years.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Lake Season (Bluebell Inn Romance #1) by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of  The Convenient Groom  and  A December Bride  (now beloved Hallmark Original movies) comes the first novel in a brand-new series!­

When their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic home back into an inn.

Adam Bradford (a.k.a. bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive author with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to a North Carolina lake town, the setting of his next novel. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

When Molly finds an old letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But the guest she invites along has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

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

Lake Season will be available November 12, 2019. 

I feel like I need to preface this review by saying that when I read this book I was kind of in a book-slump mood where I wasn’t really enjoying anything I picked up. I started several different books that I set aside after a few chapters, but I decided to keep reading Lake Season even though I felt the same way about it as all the others. Maybe if I had read it in a different mood, I would have enjoyed it a little more.

-The story begins right after Molly’s parents die. She’s discussing next steps with her older brother, Levi, and younger sister, Grace, and when Levi proposes Grace moves in with him – to another state – she throws a tantrum which ends up with her siblings giving up both of their current life paths to move back home and open the inn their parents were planning to do. I know that they obviously had just gone through a lot, but Grace came off as such a brat that I couldn’t stand her. It really set me off on the wrong foot with the story.

-I never really got on board the whole letter thing. Molly becomes obsessed with it and while I kind of understand the reasoning, I just found it pretty boring. I also thought it was kind of odd that she needed Adam’s help because she’s just “bad with computers.” It was like she barely knew how to Google something. Yet, she’s a millennial who was in college, so it’s basically impossible for her to not know how to use a computer.

-There are a few flashbacks to the letter writer in the ’60s and I just didn’t really think they were well done. They were very few and far between and not really enough to get me invested in the story. I could kind of tell the author wasn’t that invested in them either.

-Knowing that Adam keeps his author identity a secret and that Molly’s last relationship ended because of lies, you know what the big romantic conflict is going to be. This type of scenario is never my favorite and it was made even worse by Molly’s hypocrisy. She lied to Adam about things, too, but that didn’t really seem to matter. She also was kind of dating his best friend just because she thought he was actually the author. Not to mention that she also kind of cheated on him with Adam. I just found her a little hard to like.

-One prevailing thought I had while reading this was that it was pretty light on the Christian for being a Christian Fiction. However, the lessons came in really heavy handed towards the end. I don’t necessarily mind the strong push at the end, but I would’ve preferred it to be more evenly involved throughout the whole story.

Overall, Lake Season just wasn’t for me. I know I listed a lot of negative things, but I did enjoy some things about it, too. Even though I had some issues with it, there were some good romantic moments. I also fully admit that if I read this at a different time, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more and given it a solid three stars. However, I found it pretty hard to get through and so I need to give it a slightly lower rating.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Well, this was a colossal waste of time. It pains me to say that, but Ninth House was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not even come close to meeting my expectations. I’m going to go the list route for the rest of this review.

-Let’s talk about those expectations. Ninth House is Bardugo’s first adult novel. However, it pretty much read exactly like all of her YA novels. Plus, it’s set in a college, so the main character is a freshman (though she’s 20 instead of 18, so I guess that’s supposed to make her more adult?) and it still follows a basic YA formula – the dumb adult doesn’t listen to the young main character’s concerns, so she goes behind their backs to figure things out on her own.

-Almost every review I’ve read described this book as DARK, but it wasn’t really. Maybe slightly darker than her YA novels, but if we’re comparing to similar adult novels, I wouldn’t describe it that way. It wasn’t even very creepy, which was disappointing.

-If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen some trigger warnings and debates about a rape scene. I was really preparing myself for something graphic and horrible and don’t get me wrong, it’s a sensitive subject and is always awful to read. But the scene was very brief and not graphic and didn’t leave much of a lasting impact. I don’t think there needed to be that much of a fuss kicked up over it. I also don’t think it was necessary to include in the story since there were other traumatic things that happened to her that had a bigger impact on the overall story.

-This book was several hundred pages longer than it needed to be. It took over 300 pages for the plot to actually move forward. Before that, the book is mostly made up with descriptions of Yale, New Haven, magic, and the secret societies. It was really a chore to get through and I almost DNF-ed it so many times, but I pressed on because it was Leigh Bardugo and I thought she would pull through in the end. I wish I would’ve DNF-ed it.

-I was really interested in the whole secret society subject. When I first started reading, it reminded me a little bit of the movie The Skulls which was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. However, the societies never really lived up to their potential. They ended up coming across as nothing more than boring covens.

-The characters weren’t really that likable. I don’t know how the author that brought us characters like Kaz Brekker and Sturmhond/Nikolai could fill this book with such flat, forgettable characters. I feel like all of her energy and attention went into creating the atmosphere and the magic and the characters were left as afterthoughts. While Darlington was my favorite character of the book, I found myself wanting to like him, more than I actually liked him.

-The story did start to pick up for me towards the end, where there was actual plot that focused on the murder mystery and I even started to enjoy it a little bit. However, the ending made me really not want to read the next book. It’s something straight out of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and was such a lame way to end the story.

Overall, Ninth House left me incredibly disappointed. It focused way too much on the “let me show off the research I did for this book” descriptions and not enough on plot or on creating credible, likable characters. I am obviously in the minority here, though, so fans of Bardugo might find it much more enjoyable than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and Watching You comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

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

The Family Upstairs will be available November 5, 2019. 

This book was excellent! Lisa Jewell’s writing is so ridiculously addictive. It did take a few chapters to hook me, but once I was in I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The gothic atmosphere of the house really added to the overall sense of dread that infused the story. Jewell does such a fantastic job of writing families full of dysfunction and secrets that are both intriguing and kind of horrifying.

I am really fascinated by cults and while this is not exactly a cult story, it has some of the same elements. A charismatic personality moves into the house and he slowly takes all control. He indoctrinates several members of the household, gets them to give him all their possessions, and imposes strict and crazy rules. I felt so sorry for the kids that had no say in what was happening and should have been protected by their parents, but weren’t.

The story is told through three points of view. Libby has just found who her birth parents are and wants to know the full story of what happened to the family she’s never known. Lucy is basically homeless with two kids and is desperately trying to find a way back to England. Henry’s is the only POV told through first person and he recounts everything that happened from when his family was wealthy and relatively normal, all the way through present day. He’s not always the most reliable of narrators, but his chapters were definitely the most compelling to read.

Overall, I loved reading The Family Upstairs. It was at turns tragic, horrifying, fascinating, and hopeful. I am so impressed with Jewell’s writing and how compulsively readable it is. My only complaints were that I found it just a little slow to start and the ending was not as dynamic as the rest of the story. However, everything else more than made up for it. I definitely recommend this one to fans of character driven mysteries.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Woman in the Water (DS Imogen Grey #6) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Sunday Times bestselling author of The Teacher and Truth or Die is back with a new twisty crime thriller

I’m alive. But I can’t be saved . . .

When a woman’s body is found submerged in icy water, police are shocked to find she is alive. But she won’t disclose her name, or what happened to her – even when a second body is discovered. And then she disappears from her hospital bed.

Detectives Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey follow their only lead to the home of Reece Corrigan, and when his wife Angela walks in, they immediately recognise her. She’s the woman from the river, with her injuries carefully masked.

The more they dig into the couple, the less they understand about them.

Why have people in their past been hurt, or vanished?

And why doesn’t Angela want to be saved?

Smart, shocking and twisty – perfect for fans of Cara Hunter and Karin Slaughter.

Praise for Katerina Diamond:

‘All hail the new Queen of Crime’ Heat

‘Deliciously dark . . . Keeps her readers guessing throughout, as she leads us on a very secretive, VERY twisted journey’ Lisa Hall, author of The Party

‘Packed with twists until the last page’ Closer

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

Woman in the Water will be available November 11, 2019. 

I very eagerly anticipated the release of Truth or Die earlier this year and thought it would be another year before the next book in the series came out. I was super happy to discover that Woman in the Water was also publishing this year. While I did enjoy it, I have some mixed feelings about it, as well.

I don’t know if it’s because the book was maybe rushed to release this year or if it’s because of a new editor (in the Acknowledgments the author mentions a former editor, so I’m assuming the editor of this book was different than the others), but the quality didn’t seem quite as good as the other books in the series. The dialogue felt a little awkward sometimes, there was a lot of repetition, and the mystery left a little to be desired.

That said, I love Adrian and Imogen and I was just happy to spend time with them. I knew since they finally got together in the previous book that there would have to be something to throw a wrench into their relationship this time around. And there is. First, Adrian loses his head a bit during the investigation, as it brings up a lot of bad memories from his childhood. Then, he ends up having something very traumatic happen to him. It’s hard to talk about without having spoilers, but it was very hard to read and most the rest of the book focuses on him trying to come to terms with it. In true Adrian fashion, he deals with it in the least emotionally healthy way possible, which includes lying to Imogen and pushing her away. While that was frustrating, I do think Adrian’s reactions were authentic and it is definitely an important topic.

I thought the mystery was intriguing and had a lot of potential, but it kind of failed to reach it. We’re told over and over how evil Reece is and I kept expecting something big to be revealed, but he was kind of your run of the mill bad guy. We never really get the motivation behind his particular brand of villainy and the big reveal at the end seemed tacked on for shock value instead of being a satisfying or shocking twist.

Overall, I loved spending more time with Adrian and Imogen, but Woman in the Water was not my favorite book of the series. The subject matter of what happened with Adrian is important and I thought it was pretty well done, but I wish a little more development went into the central mystery. The story ends with some big changes going forward and I’m eager to see how those develop. Though I didn’t enjoy this book as much I hoped to, I’m still a big Katerina Diamond fan and can’t wait to read more from her.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars