Review: Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact #2) by Lauren Layne

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Review from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor. 

There’s never a bad time to fall in love in the city, right? Wrong. According to the recently-widowed Claire Hayes, it’s very, verywrong. In fact, after finding out her late husband was a liar and a cheat, Claire’s convinced there’s never a good time for romantic notions. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her philandering husband, Claire sets out to redesign her entire Upper East Side brownstone and make it her own. But when she meets gruff and often-cantankerous contractor Scott Turner and realizes not all men are scumbags, Claire must decide if she’s ready to risk her heart again.

Scott needs a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and bluntly makes it clear to Claire that he only took on her house for that reason, adding that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess on his job site. But when long work days soon turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…? Scott knows he’s not one to settle down, but then why can’t he bring himself to put the finishing touches on Claire’s house and move on to the next job?

Filled with laugh-out-loud scenes that blend perfectly with the touching friendships Layne brings to life on the page, this “hugely entertaining” (USA TODAY) novel is perfect for fans of Lauren Weisberger.

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

Love on Lexington Avenue will be available September 17, 2019.

I love Lauren Layne books. When I am in the mood for a fun Romance, she has become one of my go-to’s and Love on Lexington Avenue didn’t disappoint.

I’ll admit that the first book in this series, while still good, was not one of my favorites and I was a little hesitant going into this one. However, I enjoyed this one so much more. I really liked the main couple, Claire and Scott. I shipped them right from the beginning. I loved how their bickering turned into friendship and then more. I thought that while they had a lot in common, they also balanced each other out well.

I enjoyed seeing the other characters from the first book, as well. Claire’s friends, Audrey and Naomi, whom she first met when she found out her recently deceased husband was having an affair with both of them. Naomi still isn’t my favorite character (and was mostly the reason why the first book didn’t work for me as much), but I enjoyed her much more in small doses. I’m really looking forward to reading Audrey (and Clarke’s) story next. I also really liked seeing Oliver again. He shows up a lot in this book since he’s friends with both Claire and Scott.

One thing that I do really love about this series is that there is a lot less graphic stuff than in most of Layne’s other books. I know some people see that as a negative, but I am here for it. Even though the plot of this book had a lot of discussion about the idea of casual one-night stands, which I didn’t love, it never really went into graphic description and that just makes me like this book that much more.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love on Lexington Avenue. I loved the characters and the romance and the humor. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“One hell of a suspense novel.” ⁠—Stephen King

The New York Times bestselling author of A Noise Downstairs and No Time for Goodbye returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that does for elevators what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for the beach—a heart-pounding tale in which a series of disasters paralyzes New York City with fear.

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its ribbon-cutting on Thursday.

With each diabolical twist, Linwood Barclay ratchets up the suspense, building to a shattering finale. Pulsating with tension, Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible . . . and will chill readers to the bone.

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

Elevator Pitch will be available September 17, 2019. 

Linwood Barclay is one of my favorite authors and I always look forward to his books. I’m happy to say that Elevator Pitch did not disappoint.

I thought the idea of malfunctioning elevators in a city that relies on them so heavily was really interesting and I thought Barclay did a good job of creating a really suspenseful atmosphere. I even avoided using the elevators at work while I was reading this. I thought the mystery aspect was pretty well done, too. There are multiple possible suspects and a few red herrings that had me second guessing myself and I liked that.

Barclay’s books are always pretty character driven and this was no exception. I really liked detectives Bourque and Delgado. I would really love to see more books including them. I also enjoyed Mayor Headley and his aides, Valerie, Chris, and Glover, as well as journalist Barbara and her daughter, Arla. There was also a perspective from a domestic terrorist group leader. While it was intriguing, I recently finished another book that had a similar group and I’m kind of over the whole politics angle becoming more popular in books.

Overall, I really enjoyed Elevator Pitch.  While I didn’t love the inclusion of politics and I felt the story was just a little longer than it needed to be, those were really my only issues with it. I loved the suspenseful atmosphere of the elevators and the characters. I am definitely looking forward to more from Barclay.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of LIES comes 29 SECONDS, a sensational new thriller that explores what happens when a split second thought of revenge takes on a life of its own. 

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

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

29 Seconds will be available September 10, 2019. 

I found T.M. Logan’s last book, Lies, to be pretty entertaining so I had high hopes for 29 Seconds. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I was hoping to.

The topic is a timely #MeToo scenario. Sarah is a junior faculty member at a university and her boss is notorious for getting away with sexually harassing/assaulting his young, female subordinates. He has his sights set on Sarah and much of the book is her trying to figure out how to avoid his advances without ruining her career. With this being such a current and important topic, I was hoping for a strong female character who would do the right thing. Instead, Sarah was pretty spineless and just felt sorry for herself. I found her more annoying than anything else.

Then there’s the 29 Seconds part of the book. Sarah helps interrupt a kidnapping and to repay her, the little girl’s sketchy, mobster father offers to make someone in Sarah’s life disappear. Sarah initially refuses, but when things with her boss go from bad to worse, she makes a 29 second phone call to make her boss disappear. What follows is a lot of paranoia and a bumbled disappearance that kind of made the whole thing pointless. While I initially thought this idea was kind of intriguing, it just ended up being kind of ridiculous.

Overall, I found 29 Seconds kind of disappointing. While I liked the short chapters, the story did drag a bit. The characters were unlikable and the “twist” wasn’t really much of a twist at all. There was also an issue with the ARC copy I had where the villain’s last name kept changing between two different names. Hopefully this will be all sorted out by the final copy, but it made for a confusing and frustrating reading experience.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Last Widow (Will Trent #9) by Karin Slaughter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter brings back Will Trent and Sara Linton in this superb and timely thriller full of devious twists, disturbing secrets, and shocking surprises you won’t see coming

A mysterious kidnapping

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot. Vanished into thin air, the authorities are desperate to save the doctor.

A devastating explosion

One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast—followed by another seconds later. One of Atlanta’s busiest and most important neighborhood’s has been bombed—the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.

A diabolical enemy

Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene—and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives. When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre—putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.

This book was excellent. I feel like I have been waiting forever for a new Will Trent book and it did not disappoint. In fact, I think this is my favorite book from Karin Slaughter to date.

I’ve always been a fan of Slaughter’s writing, but the way she was able to write this story with such a sense of urgency was so impressive to me. Even though there were plenty of parts that had a lot of information and background instead of action-packed sequences, that urgency was always there. It was very hard to put the book down. I loved the way Slaughter played with timelines and point of views, as well. We get third person POVs from Will, Sara, and Faith, which I expect from this series, but what was different was seeing some of the same scenes from different perspectives. I loved this! After the first few chapters, though, our main characters don’t have many scenes together, so while we still see what’s happening with all of them at the same time of day, it’s only from one perspective per scene. I also thought the frequent references to time reminded me a little of the tv show 24, which I loved.

The story focuses on the ramp up to a domestic terrorist attack. This particular sect is a white supremacist group, which is pretty timely. There are always scenes in a Slaughter book that are hard to read, but hearing the ideology of this group was so revolting. There’s a lot of people in our world today that throw out the term “nazi” at anyone they disagree with and I think it desensitizes us to when there are actually people like this that hold those type of views. This is an important topic, but it felt like there were a little more politics in this book than I generally like to read. Also, I wish Slaughter would have emphasized a little more that alt-right and alt-left groups do not represent people on the right or the left. This was really my only complaint, though.

Overall, I loved The Last Widow. I loved being back in Will Trent’s world. I love his relationship with Sara, and the other strong women in his life, Faith and Amanda. I also liked Van from the FBI and wouldn’t mind seeing more from him in the future. I loved the sense of urgency Slaughter infused into the story. I think this is my favorite book of 2019 so far and I really hope Slaughter doesn’t make us wait several more years before giving us another Will Trent book!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4.5 Stars

Review: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of The Hating Game, a debut lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy about two unhappily engaged people each trying to force the other to end the relationship–and falling back in love in the process.

Naomi Westfield has an Instagram-perfect life, including the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family every bride dreams of being a part of. They never fight, complain, or disagree. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And they are miserably and utterly sick of each other.

Tired of contorting herself to fit the ridiculous standards demanded by Nicholas’s family, Naomi wants out of the relationship. But there’s a catch: Whoever calls off the engagement will have to foot the enormous bill for the wedding. When Naomi finds out that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of wills to see who can annoy the other into surrendering through pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves. They’re having so much fun getting on each other’s nerves that it starts to feel like something else entirely. As Naomi discovers hidden feelings for Nicholas buried under three years of simmering resentment, she wonders if he feels the same way. Suddenly, the countdown to the wedding that may or may not come to pass feels more like a race to mutual destruction–and Naomi doesn’t want to be left alone at the finish line.

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

You Deserve Each Other will be available April 7, 2020.

The cute cover and the reference to The Hating Game definitely drew me to You Deserve Each Other. Unfortunately, it was just not for me.

Naomi has to be one of the most unlikable characters I have ever read. For about the first 60% of the book I really thought she’d be better suited as the narcissistic villain in a psychological thriller rather than the heroine in a Romance. She is just so, so awful and self-centered. She spent the early days of her relationship with Nicholas lying to him and then got mad when he thought that’s who she was. She refused to communicate and every time Nicholas tried to be honest, she would not take any responsibility for the things she’s done wrong, but would turn it back around on him. She was so mean and vindictive. I really couldn’t stand her. Nicholas also didn’t hep matters by often retaliating her bad behavior. However, he wasn’t trying to get her to break up with him like the sick game Naomi thought they were playing, but wanted to get an actual reaction out of her and get their relationship back on solid ground.

Even though I was not enjoying the book at all, for some reason I kept reading it and a little over halfway through it began to get better. Naomi and Nicholas finally have real conversations and start to make positive changes. There were even several cute and humorous moments. It made me sad that the first half of the book was so frustrating because it had the potential to be such a sweet, fun story, but the second half was not enough to make up for the first.

Overall, You Deserve Each Other ended up disappointing me. It did have some funny and cute moments, but Naomi was just so unlikable for the first half of the book (and still not great in the second half). She really came across as a sociopath to me and I felt bad for Nicholas. While I wouldn’t personally recommend it, I’m sure that there will be many people that find it funny and enjoy it much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

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

The First Girl Child will be available August 20, 2019. 

I hardly know where to begin with this review. I’m going with a trusty list.

*The the book is set in a fantasy world within a Norse mythology framework. I will show my ignorance on the subject and admit I thought Thor was just a comic book character. But he and Loki and several others are mentioned throughout this story, though they aren’t main characters or anything.

*I found the synopsis just a little misleading. While Bayr and Alba are definitely main characters, they feel like supporting characters until the last quarter of the book. The story follows them from birth to adulthood, with much of book taking place while they are still children. I don’t want to diminish their importance, but I just expected for them to play much bigger roles. Dagmar and Ghost felt a lot more like lead characters and they aren’t even mentioned in the synopsis.

*There is some fabulous character development. Harmon takes her time telling the story and really focuses in on the characters and she did a good job of it. I definitely felt a connection to many of them. I loved sweet Bayr and tragic, tragic Dagmar.

*Though there was great characterization, I felt like it was a little at the expense of the pace. Though I was enjoying the story, I felt like it took me a lot longer to get through the book than it normally would a book of a similar size. Harmon’s writing is as beautiful as ever, but it also felt a little exhausting at times. I felt like it could have been edited down a bit more.

*I liked the slight parallel between Bayr and Moses from the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, though, it is mentioned that a leader from Saylok’s past spent some time among Christians and liked them so much he decided to make Jesus one of the gods they worship in Saylok. Which kind of defies the point of Christianity.

Overall, I enjoyed The First Girl Child. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but that turned out to be ok. Though it was a little longer and slower than it needed to be, I loved the characters a lot, especially Dagmar and Bayr. I think fans of Harmon’s other fantasy novels will really enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Dark Age (Red Rising Saga #5) by Pierce Brown

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core. Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband. Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?

Once a Red refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate escape with unlikely new allies.

Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation—and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-form—and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed—every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Morning Star returns to the Red Rising universe with the thrilling sequel to Iron Gold.

You all know that the Red Rising series is one of my all-time favorites. Dark Age was easily my most anticipated book of 2019. The publishing date got pushed back twice, to almost a year after it was originally set, which just stoked the anticipation. It was definitely worth the wait.

-This book is long. It’s well over 700 pages and took me a week to read. There were a few plotlines that didn’t seem all that necessary and could’ve been cut to make the length a little less intimidating. However, once I reached the end of the book I really wished that there was more! I’m feeling a little adrift now that it’s over and am thinking about re-reading the other books so I don’t have to leave this world.

-In the previous book I had some issues with the multiple POVs. After three books of just Darrow, I wasn’t thrilled whenever the POV shifted away from him. I’m happy to say that I did not mind it near as much in this installment. While I’ll always want as much Darrow as possible, I enjoyed most of the other points of view, as well. I still didn’t love Lyria (or some of the weird stuff that went on with her), but I really liked Ephraim this time around. I enjoyed his chapters and loved seeing him interact with Darrow’s son, Pax. I really adored Pax, though I thought he was a little too mature for an eleven year old (I guess maybe that’s to be expected from a Gold, though?). I was a little wary of the inclusion of Virginia’s POV, but I ended up appreciating it.

-Another complaint I had with the last book was that it was a lot more world building than I expected or wanted. Thankfully, this book really picked up the action. Part 1 of the book was crazy intense and brutal. It honestly felt like it could have been it’s own book.

-This book was much darker than the others were. The series has always been violent, but this one seemed even more so. There’s also a lot of mention of rape (though no actual scenes of it).

-There was not nearly enough Sevro! He doesn’t show up until we’re more than 200 pages in and he doesn’t get a lot of page time. I am hoping for some amazing things with him in the next book to make up for it.

-There are some very disheartening character deaths. I know I should expect it in these books, as Pierce Brown has broken my heart on many occasions, but there were still two I took very hard, as well as several others that just added salt to the wounds.

-There was a resurgence of more than one past character that we were supposed to believe were long gone. I loved both of these developments, even though I saw one coming since the last book.

Overall, Dark Age was another great installment of the Red Rising series. Pierce Brown is a bloodydamn maniac that takes us on quite an adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars